OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau has recruited Liberal MP Andrew Leslie to help boost ties with the incoming U.S. administration, which includes a number of fellow former military commanders getting top jobs under president-elect Donald Trump.
Having named trade specialist Chrystia Freeland to be minister of foreign affairs, the prime minister on Wednesday appointed Leslie as her parliamentary secretary for an extra connection to Washington’s retired generals.
Leslie will have special responsibilities for the Canada-U.S. relationship.
“As a retired lieutenant-general with years of experience working with the U.S., I know he has the necessary relationships and experience to help establish a constructive dialogue with the new U.S. administration,” Trudeau said in a statement.
The Washington file has become increasingly complex with the arrival of the often-unpredictable Trump, who will be inaugurated Friday as the 45th U.S. president.
Leslie, currently the chief government whip, developed close relationships with senior American generals during his time in the military, including as a commander in Afghanistan.
Leslie was first elected to Parliament in 2015, in the Ottawa-area riding of Orleans. He spent 35 years in the Canadian Forces, retiring with the rank of lieutenant-general.
In 2007, he was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit in recognition of his work with the American military.
In appointing Freeland, Trudeau said her economic credentials made her an ideal choice.
“One of the things we’ve seen from president-elect Trump is that he very much takes a trade and job lens to his engagements with this world in international diplomacy,” Trudeau said last week.
“It makes sense for the person who is responsible for foreign relations with the United States to also have the ability and the responsibility to engage with issues such as NAFTA and the broad range of trade issues that we’ll be facing with our friends and neighbours south of the border.”
Trump’s cabinet picks include two retired marine generals in key jobs: James Mattis at defence and John Kelly in homeland security.
His national security adviser is retired army general Michael Flynn.
Leslie is a scion of a military family. His grandfather, Gen. Andrew McNaughton, commanded the Canadian Army in the Second World War. His father was a brigadier general and a regimental commander during the Korean war. Leslie himself led troops in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.