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Stéphane Dion, considered an unlikely diplomat by some fellow Liberals, was removed as foreign affairs minister after just 14 months on the job because the Trudeau government felt it needed someone more skilled at the delicate task of steering Canada-U.S. relations in the Trump era.

“I think it’s fair to say he kind of stumbled out of the starting gate with the Saudi arms deal … and he never really regained his stride,” said Fen Hampson, distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Mr. Dion took heat last June for standing by silently as China’s foreign minister berated a Canadian...

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