Mr. Trudeau is off base

The Western Star - - Editorial -

Politi­cians make po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions. It’s their job. We elect them in the hope they also make fair, rea­son­able and re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sions in the best in­ter­est of tax­pay­ers. So it’s hard to un­der­stand Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s ra­tio­nale when he sug­gests that he’s re­mov­ing pol­i­tics from de­ci­sion-mak­ing within the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency (ACOA) by ap­point­ing the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble from the Toronto area.

Doesn’t it make more sense for some­one with knowl­edge of the re­gion to make de­ci­sions af­fect­ing the eco­nomic well be­ing of At­lantic Canada? And it’s not like the PM didn’t have op­tions - there are 32 MPs from At­lantic Canada to choose from.

Some port­fo­lios ob­vi­ously re­quire cer­tain qual­i­fi­ca­tions. That’s why our min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture is a farmer, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the sta­tus of women is a woman and our min­is­ter of de­fence com­manded Cana­dian forces in Afghanista­n.

ACOA could have been at­tached to the du­ties of At­lantic cabi­net min­is­ters like Do­minic Le­Blanc, Scott Bri­son, Judy Foote or Lawrence Ma­cAulay - who served as ACOA min­is­ter in 1996-1997. Even if At­lantic MPs are keep­ing the min­is­ter fully in­formed, it’s an­other layer of bu­reau­cracy to deal with.

The prime min­is­ter sug­gested in an in­ter­view last week in Char­lot­te­town that he is re­duc­ing the kind of pol­i­tics that have plagued re­gional de­vel­op­ment agen­cies. It wasn’t a kind as­sess­ment of At­lantic MPs – past and present. Since 1987, when the agency was cre­ated, some 18 ACOA min­is­ters have ei­ther been MPs or se­na­tors from At­lantic Canada – un­til In­no­va­tion, Sci­ence and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Navdeep Bains was ap­pointed in 2015.

Min­is­ter Bains is rarely sighted in the re­gion. ACOA fund­ing an­nounce­ments are usu­ally made by the lo­cal MP on be­half of the Min­is­ter in Ab­sen­tia. He seems to have lit­tle in­ter­est in At­lantic Canada.

Last fall, for­mer in­terim Con­ser­va­tive Leader Rona Am­brose said the ACOA port­fo­lio be­ing given to a Toronto MP was a snub to the re­gion. She was right. ACOA is es­sen­tial to help turn the econ­omy around in At­lantic Canada where an aging pop­u­la­tion makes the need of greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for our young people more im­por­tant than ever.

ACOA has faced fund­ing re­duc­tions in re­cent years and an At­lantic min­is­ter is more apt to fight for the agency around the cabi­net ta­ble.

Mr. Trudeau helps de­feat his own ar­gu­ments with his ap­point­ment last month of New Brunswick’s Fran­cis McGuire as ACOA pres­i­dent. The news was warmly greeted be­cause of Mr. McGuire’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the re­gion’s pri­vate and govern­ment sec­tors.

Mr. McGuire, who served as a deputy min­is­ter dur­ing Frank McKenna’s time as a Lib­eral premier, drew wide praise be­cause he knows the chal­lenges that New Brunswick and the re­gion faces. Hav­ing the pres­i­dent from this re­gion, un­der­stand­ing this re­gion and hav­ing a track record for eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in this re­gion bodes well for At­lantic Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Min­is­ter, for that ap­point­ment. The ra­tio­nale be­hind Mr. McGuire as ACOA pres­i­dent is a sound ar­gu­ment to have the min­ster from At­lantic Canada as well.

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