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Trudeau presides over first caucus meeting

Justin Trudeau presided over his first caucus meeting as Liberal leader on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau led his first caucus meeting Wednesday since becoming the new leader of the Liberal party.

Trudeau focused much of his speech on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which turned 31 years old Wednesday.

“We celebrate today, as Liberals, the document that makes sure that Canadians enjoy freedoms that can never be taken away,” he told Liberal MPs and senators.

“It’s a charter that ensures that our freedoms can never be taken away from us and that is why it is at the heart of the Liberal Party of Canada.”

He used the anniversary to try and rally the troops and then he put the Harper Conservatives in his cross-hairs.

“This government is rapidly demonstrating it is out of touch with Canadians and doesn’t understand the challenges ahead.”

“Canadians are tired of that. Canadians want to be drawn together in building a positive vision and a project for this country that, yes, is anchored in hope and a positive outlook on the future.”

But he also admits it will not be easy for his team.

“We’ve got a lot work ahead but a big piece of the work is going to be to remind Canadians that politicians are supposed to be worthy of our trust.”

Trudeau told the caucus there is going to be a lot of work to do in the months and years ahead to repair and renew the Liberal party.

On his third full day on the job, Trudeau began slowly putting his stamp on the party apparatus, assigning shadow cabinet roles for former leadership rivals Joyce Murray and Marc Garneau and for Bob Rae, who held down the Liberal fort as interim leader for the past two years.

Rae will resume his former role as  foreign affairs critic, while Murray returns to her role as Asia-Pacific and small business critic and Garneau takes on the natural resources post.

Trudeau won’t shake up the rest of the shadow cabinet until after Parliament breaks for the summer in late June.

He also named Cyrus Reporter — an Ottawa lawyer, veteran political operative and one-time chief of staff to former minister Allan Rock — as his new chief of staff.

Katie Telford and Gerald Butts, who led Trudeau’s leadership campaign, will now focus on preparing for the next election in 2015 and won’t be joining his office staff. However, both will continue to be influential advisers.