OTTAWA, July 15 Canada's new transport minister,
Lisa Raitt, will become the government's point person on railway
regulation, a highly sensitive task in the aftermath of the
train derailment earlier this month that devastated a small town
and left 50 people dead.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper named Raitt on
Monday to head the ministry as part of a wider cabinet shuffle,
which was preceded by a minute of silence to remember the
victims of the rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
Raitt has managed crises before and has defended government
policies in the face of stiff opposition.
As labor minister since 2010, she pushed for controversial
back-to-work legislation to end strikes at Air Canada,
Canadian Pacific Railway and the country's mail service,
Canada Post, which critics said pre-empted the chance of
negotiated settlements in those disputes.
She will now likely take the brunt of public outrage over
the disaster in Lac-Megantic, the worst rail accident in North
America in 24 years, and which many in the town blame on
deregulation of the railway industry.
One of the leading investigators of the crash said he
expected it to lead to tougher new rules for rail-car hand
brakes, tanker cars and possibly train crew size.
Before entering politics, Raitt was president and chief
executive of the Toronto Port Authority, a government agency
that manages Toronto's harbor and downtown airport.
After winning the election in her Halton, Ontario, district
in 2008, Raitt was immediately named natural resources minister.
She was demoted to the labor department in 2010 following a
minor scandal in which a news outlet obtained an audio recording
of her commenting on the shutdown of a nuclear plant that caused
a shortage of radio isotopes used in medical imaging. She
described the issue as "sexy".
Raitt made headlines more recently for sharing her personal
experience with postpartum depression, and calling on employers
to give more support to workers with mental health problems.