Liberals and Conservatives spar over cabinet shuffle

OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday of last week, and it didn’t take long for the Conservative opposition to take issue with the new line-up.

“Trudeau made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care about Atlantic Canada,” said Rob Moore, Conservative Shadow Minister for Atlantic Canada. “Not only did he fail to appoint a Minister for ACOA from the region, he also moved Fisheries and Oceans to the west coast.”

Moore issued his statement by a press release just hours after the cabinet shuffle took place.

“For a government that claims to support economic development, the Liberals sure have a funny way of showing it,” he said. “Centralizing power in Ottawa does nothing to help rural communities. Regional Development Ministers need to be aware of the issues and opportunities in their region and it is absolutely unacceptable that the Liberals continue to ignore this important file.

“It is also extremely disappointing to see Fisheries and Oceans being moved out of Atlantic Canada. This important sector is a key economic driver in our region, which creates thousands of jobs in rural and remote communities.”

Responding to Moore was Rodger Cuzner, Cape Breton-Canso MP. He spoke with The Reporter just hours after Moore issued his release.

Cuzner said he has high regard for Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Bains handles matters related to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, as well as other Crown Corporations. He is from Mississauga-Malton, Ontario.

Cuzner said having a minister in place who can handle the needs of several regional development agencies is a good thing, as those needs sometimes overlap.

“What’s neat there is that those economic development agencies plug into what’s going on in some of the bigger portfolios like Industry Canada, so that they aren’t operating in a silo by themselves,” he said. “They are part of a larger department.

“The last couple of years working with Navdeep have been great. He’s been very receptive and responsive to the needs of Atlantic Caucus. He’s been great to deal with.”

Cuzner also said the qualifications of Jonathan Wilkinson, the new federal minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard, can’t be called into question. Wilkinson represents North Vancouver, and he’s replacing New Brunswick’s Dominic LeBlanc in the role.

“When I was first elected, Herb Dhaliwal [former MP for Vancouver South] was the Minister of Fisheries, and he was great to work with,” Cuzner said.

“You can’t ignore the fact that we’d like to see someone from Atlantic Canada, but Jonathan is extremely sharp and he’ll be a quick study. He’ll surround himself with good people.”

Moore also criticized the Liberals in regard to working with the provincial governments of the four Atlantic Provinces.

“When the Liberals won all 32 of the seats in Atlantic Canada, we were told that they would work closely with the region’s four Liberal Premiers to deliver ‘real’ results,” he said. “Turns out that was just another empty promise.

“Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will continue to stand up for all Atlantic Canadians and we will continue to demonstrate that there is a real alternative to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.”

In regard to the feds partnering with Atlantic Provinces, Cuzner referenced the July 17 announcement of a $90 million government investment to twin 38-kilometers of highway between Sutherland’s River and Antigonish.

“In the 2011 election, the NDP candidate had advocated for a ferry service between Port Hood and Souris, PEI,” Cuzner said. “He wanted us to commit to that in our party platform, and I remember at the time stating without reservation that the single biggest transportation investment should be the twinning of the highway between the Canso Causeway and New Glasgow.

“It’s a number of years later, but now that we hold the reins of government, I was very proud to be with the prime minister when he made the announcement.”