OTTAWA — Canada has sworn in new Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez who takes over the reins from Omar Alghabra.
The passing of the baton comes amid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet reshuffle ahead of the Liberals’ run in the next election.
Alghabra confirmed the news yesterday, July 25, on Twitter, writing: “I have news to share: after a lot of reflection, I decided to not run in the next election. As a result I will be stepping aside from cabinet. I was first elected in 2006 and have had the journey of a lifetime. I’m grateful for every minute of it.”
A swearing-in ceremony will take place at Rideau Hall Wednesday for what is expected to be the most significant change since 2021.
Alghabra steered the government through negotiations with airlines on financial aid, COVID-19 testing at airports and a new passenger rights charter.
But with the traveller complaint backlog at a record high topping 52,000, both advocates and airlines continue to find fault with parts of the overhauled regime, even as other issues demand attention.
Rodriguez will take over on topline items including nascent plans for a high-frequency railway between Toronto and Quebec City, ongoing supply chain hitches and infrastructure vulnerable to natural disasters amid increasingly extreme weather.
Rodriguez, a Montreal MP first elected in 2004 and the Liberals’ current Quebec lieutenant, was sworn in Wednesday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Trained in management with a professional background in communications and cleantech, he has served in cabinet since 2019, when he became government house leader.
John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, called Rodriguez “fearless,” having shepherded online streaming legislation to passage in April after previous attempts foundered. Known as Bill C-11, the act endured two years of controversy over the effort to force platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute to and promote Canadian content – a requirement traditional broadcasters already follow.
“He has navigated where an entire industry of people hate each other’s guts. So all I can say is he must like that kind of challenge, because transport is another huge kettle of fish,” Lawford said.
He holds out hope Rodriguez will address advocates’ concerns – aviation sector transparency is one – around proposed rules. The would-be changes to the passenger rights charter stem from legislative reforms passed last month to toughen penalties on airlines, shore up the complaint process and target flight disruption loopholes that have allowed carriers to avoid compensating travellers.
“If nothing else, you know he’ll bring the juice to the file,” Lawford said.