Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ex-Afghan Envoy Alexander Joins Harper Cabinet as Immigration Minister

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ex-Afghan Envoy Alexander Joins Harper Cabinet as Immigration Minister

Article excerpt

Ex-Afghan envoy turned Tory now in cabinet

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OTTAWA - Chris Alexander was in his early 30s when he became Canada's face to the world in post-Taliban Afghanistan more than a decade ago.

He was Canada's first ambassador in residence to Afghanistan after the 9-11 terror attacks, quickly becoming a passionate advocate of his country's mission to save what he saw as an embattled, war-torn people in a scarred but beautiful land.

On Monday, still sporting a youthful glow at 44, Alexander was touted as one of the new faces of "generational change" when Prime Minister Stephen Harper handed him the immigration portfolio in his newly shuffled cabinet.

Alexander's promotion came after a two-year apprenticeship on the back benches where he distinguished himself as a polished communicator of the government's message -- one also highly capable of the spirited bare-knuckled partisanship of the toughest of his fellow Tories.

Alexander increasingly proved his ability to throw political punches in the particularly acrimonious sitting of Parliament that ended last month. The Conservatives plunged in the polls amid the Senate spending scandal while Justin Trudeau, the youthful new Liberal leader, pulled ahead.

The promotion of younger caucus members such as Alexander is as much about countering the rise of Trudeau ahead of the 2015 election as it is about setting a new agenda for governing.

Alexander proved himself capable of blistering partisanship in the dying days of Parliament last month when he used a member's statement in the Commons to fire a rocket at Trudeau, under fire at the time for his paid speaking engagements.

Alexander accused Trudeau of "ripping off charities" and called him "a defiant millionaire Liberal leader."

"Make no mistake," he thundered, "the Liberal leader will not think twice about scamming the most vulnerable in our society or abandoning his best friend if he thinks he can make a buck."

Megan Leslie, the deputy NDP leader, expressed great skepticism Monday about Harper's youthful new cabinet members, Alexander included.

Leslie lumped Alexander in with 34-year-old Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who was promoted to minister of state for democratic reform, and is probably the government's most fang-bearing partisan this side of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. …

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