Los­ing LeBlanc

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL -

At­lantic Canada is still as­sess­ing the im­pact of fed­eral cab­i­net min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc’s de­par­ture from Fish­eries to In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs and Trade. It’s a new chal­lenge for LeBlanc, but likely a loss for this re­gion.

Be­cause we had a min­is­ter in Fish­eries who was deeply fa­mil­iar with the port­fo­lio. His Beause­jour, N.B. rid­ing, which stretches along the Northum­ber­land Strait, is heav­ily de­pen­dent on the fish­ery. He knows the is­sues and the per­son­al­i­ties in boats, fac­to­ries and of­fices. He is cred­ited with tak­ing dra­matic steps to ad­dress the right whale is­sue in the Gulf re­gion.

And on that is­sue, fish­er­men went from be­ing part of the prob­lem to be­com­ing part of the so­lu­tion. While they were up­set with zone clo­sures at the time, they came to re­al­ize the min­is­ter’s ac­tions to pro­tect whales kept seafood trade flow­ing un­in­ter­rupted with the U.S. and Europe — and re­duced en­tan­gle­ments and col­li­sions.

LeBlanc found time to ex­ert his in­flu­ence and of­fer ad­vice to other min­is­ters deal­ing with At­lantic is­sues. This re­gion was the bet­ter for it. Now, that con­nec­tion may be less­en­ing.

At first glance, the new port­fo­lio should of­fer LeBlanc op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­main closely con­nected to the At­lantic prov­inces. But Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau seems to have other pri­or­i­ties for his long­time friend. With the count­down un­der­way to next year’s fed­eral elec­tion, the PM wants one of his most ca­pa­ble min­is­ters to take on a very tough file.

It’s a crit­i­cal time in fed­eral-pro­vin­cial re­la­tions. LeBlanc will push the PM’s agenda in the face of op­po­si­tion from Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Premier Doug Ford in On­tario and the loom­ing threat of United Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader Ja­son Ken­ney in Al­berta. He will be deal­ing with files that have lit­tle im­me­di­ate im­pact on At­lantic Canada, in­clud­ing the Kinder Mor­gan pipe­line; Al­berta’s con­cerns about equal­iza­tion pay­ments; and car­bon pric­ing in On­tario and the Western prov­inces.

Those mat­ters will ob­vi­ously keep LeBlanc busy. Our key min­is­ter around the fed­eral cab­i­net ta­ble will now be speak­ing pri­mar­ily about Cen­tral and Western Canada is­sues, so it’s up to At­lantic pre­miers to en­sure he con­tin­ues to pay at­ten­tion to this re­gion as well. They will have to re­mind LeBlanc that he’s in charge of pri­or­i­ties for all the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, and not just three or four prov­inces with lots of seats in the House of Com­mons.

Also in need of LeBlanc’s at­ten­tion is in­ter­provin­cial trade bar­ri­ers that have led to re­duced se­lec­tion and higher prices for con­sumers. The most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple in At­lantic Canada is al­co­hol, fol­low­ing the high-pro­file case of a New Brunswick man charged with trans­port­ing beer across the bor­der from Que­bec. Pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial lead­ers agreed in prin­ci­ple last month to re­duce bar­ri­ers, but it’s up to LeBlanc to must push them for­ward.

We wish LeBlanc well in his new du­ties of na­tion-build­ing and na­tional unity; we just hope he doesn’t for­get about the folks back home.

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