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Canada defence minister Harjit Sajjan among most popular members of Trudeau cabinet

After facing criticism earlier this year, Canada’s minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan has received a good job performance assessment from four-in-ten Canadians.

world Updated: Nov 25, 2017 10:17 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada defence minister Harjit Sajjan,Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,Angus Reid Institute
File photo of Canada's defence minister Harjit Sajjan visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar on April 20, 2017. (AFP)

While two-thirds of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet colleagues are “unknown to at least half the country”, national defence minister Harjit Sajjan enjoys high visibility and is among those whose performance gets the most credit, according to a survey by opinion research foundation Angus Reid Institute.

While 75% of respondents were aware of finance minister Bill Morneau, Sajjan was next, at 71%. However, that recognition may not be a positive for the Canadian finance minister, as the institute noted in a statement: “At the top is Finance Minister Bill Morneau, though perhaps not for the reasons he would like. In recent months, opposition critics have accused Morneau of ethics violations.”

Of those polled, 43% believe Morneau is doing a “bad job”, far outstripping the 23% who give him the thumbs-up.

Sajjan’s popularity, on the other hand, is trending in the other direction, according to the statement. “Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan receives a good job performance assessment from four-in-ten Canadians. Sajjan faced criticism early in 2017 forembellishing his role in a key operation in Afghanistan, but appears to have settled into favour with many Canadians,” it said.

In April, Sajjan faced criticism and even calls for resignation after a speech he gave during a trip to India, in which he claimed to be the “architect” of a 2006 offensive while stationed in Afghanistan. He appears to have weathered that political storm in the public eye.

Leading the pack in terms of approval is Canada’s foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland. “Renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement have occupied much of Freeland’s bandwidth over the course of 2017, and it appears Canadians are happy with her performance to this point,” the institute said.

The other three Indo-Canadian cabinet ministers enjoy a far lower profile among the public. Of them, 49% are aware of minister of innovation, science and economic development Navdeep Bains, with a third satisfied with his work.

Just 38% know of Bardish Chagger, minister of small business and tourism and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. And 30% believe she is doing a “good job”.

Only 37% are aware of infrastructure and communities minister Amarjeet Sohi. He is also among the handful with the dubious distinction of having more people disapprove of his work than approve, 29% against 27%.

That distinct group with a negative performance score includes Morneau and minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship Ahmed Hussen.

As the survey pointed out, this really is the ‘Trudeau Government”, as the prime minister continues to enjoy more than 50% approval, a number not matched by any of his cabinet colleagues.

“While Trudeau is no stranger to the spotlight, most of his cabinet toils far away from it, maintaining a relatively low profile – at least – when it comes awareness in the Canadian consciousness,” Angus Reid Institute commented on that phenomenon.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 14:06 IST