Mr. Trudeau is off base
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.