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UPDATE: Canada’s new trade minister, Ed Fast

Ed Fast

Ed Fast

Canada has a new trade minister. In yesterday’s cabinet shuffle, Peter Van Loan was replaced by Abbotsford MP Ed Fast. As the trade minister, he will be the minister responsible for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and other trade negotiations.

But who is Ed Fast? Embassy magazine reports —

A first-time minister, Mr. Fast is largely unknown among international circles. His official biography notes he served as chairman of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and was a member of the Commons’ heritage and transport committees. His only other parliamentary accomplishments appear to be securing $35 million in funding for his riding in British Columbia, and successfully sponsoring a private member’s bill imposing five to 10 year prison sentences for luring children over the Internet for sexual purposes.

A lawyer and former city councillor, Mr. Fast hails from a riding that is located along the Canada-US border and close to the Pacific Ocean. This will ostensibly give him a good perspective on development of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and promote relations with China, India and other Asian countries.

However, there is no evidence of international or trade experience. The same held true for his predecessor, Peter Van Loan, who ended up holding down the fort. And in some ways, the trade file kind of runs on cruise control, with free trade negotiations and other issues managed by bureaucrats. Rather, the minister serves as a salesman for Canada.

To that end, there are some who will say Mr. Fast was promoted to the portfolio simply to give BC more representation at the Cabinet table—geographic representation being a key factor in determining who gets a promotion and who doesn’t. This may be unfair, but given the increasing importance of international trade to Canadian prosperity and Mr. Van Loan’s lack of real strong accomplishments or initiatives, one hopes the portfolio isn’t being given short-shrift.