Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the Prime Minister’s Office says it has not shifted Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s media responsibilities to Transport Minister Marc Garneau. Sajjan wasn’t available for an interview and Garneau was asked to step in, in his place.
Asked to appear on this weekend’s episode of The West Block with Vassy Kapelos, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office said he was not available – for this or any other interviews – over the weekend.
Producers then sent a request to the minister’s former parliamentary secretary John MacKay, as Sajjan’s office suggested. The Prime Minister’s Office was looped into the interview request (this is not uncommon for broadcast bookings) and eventually came back with a confirmation not for MacKay, but for Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
Sajjan has been in the spotlight since his claim about the magnitude of the role he played in a Canadian-led NATO offensive against the Taliban.
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He most recently said he was “the architect” of Operation Medusa while speaking to an audience in India two weeks ago; the claim was quickly questioned and critics accused him of “stolen valour.”
A few days later, Sajjan apologized and retracted his description of his role. But the criticism didn’t stop. Opposition MPs laid into the minister all week, asking Prime Minister Trudeau whether Sajjan still held his trust, and asking the minister to resign his portfolio.
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Sajjan rose repeatedly in the House of Commons over the course of the week and twice stood for questions from reporters as recently as Wednesday.
Garneau, a naval veteran and astronaut, has represented a Montreal island riding since 2008. Aside from his role as transport minister, he sits as a member on the defence procurement cabinet committee as well as the Canada in the world and public security cabinet committee (which looks at issues like international relations, trade and assistance, and issues related to domestic and global security).
When asked via email Friday morning, the PMO did not say how long Garneau will be giving media interviews on the defence file.
Tune into The West Block this Sunday to see Garneau’s interview.