The Trudeau government has picked a trusted economic adviser as its new ambassador to China.
Sources tell CBC News that Dominic Barton will be heading to Beijing to take on the role after the Chinese government formally accepted his appointment.
Barton serves as the chair of the finance minister’s advisory council on economic growth and has helped the Trudeau government shape its economic policies and strategies.
He’s also well known in the world of consulting as a global managing partner at the firm McKinsey & Company.
According to a corporate biography posted online, Barton has spent time in China before. He was based in Shanghai as the company’s Asia chairman from 2004-2009.
Sources say Freeland revealed that Barton was Canada’s choice for its next ambassador to China during her one-on-one meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Bangkok last month.
The federal government kept the selection process highly confidential due to the risk that Beijing, in the midst of a diplomatic standoff with Canada, might reject Ottawa’s choice.
And while this appointment is taking place shortly before a federal election, two sources say Freeland did not consult opposition parties about it.
If the Liberals lose the election, it’s not clear whether the winning party would keep Barton in the role.
Canada has been without an ambassador to China since January, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired John McCallum.
The former cabinet minister turned diplomat was relieved of his duties after he twice weighed in publicly on the legal case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
The arrest of Meng, at the request of the United States, triggered a crisis in diplomatic relations between Canada and China.
Beijing was furious over Meng’s arrest and has been demanding her immediate release.
In the ten months since, China has detained two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — a move widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
China also stopped buying large quantities of Canadian canola, blocked meat imports and tightened up screening of Canadian imports. Lobster and wheat sales to China, meanwhile, are booming.