Moore may signal ACOA intentions in province today

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Federal minister speaks to chamber; business, province hope it’s good news

Rob Moore, ACOA minister

Few funding partners are as important to P.E.I. as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. ACOA has poured millions into economic development across the province and any news about the agency brings a lot of attention. So when ACOA Minister Rob Moore, the MP from Fundy Royal in neighbouring New Brunswick, speaks today in Charlottetown, politicians and businessmen will be paying close attention.

Just over a year ago, government estimates revealed the ACOA budget was being slashed by more than $20 million to bring it just under $300 million. In May, ACOA announced a $700,000 cut to four P.E.I. economic development organizations as the agency shifted its focus to support small and medium-sized businesses. As expected, both moves drew heavy criticism.

Mr. Moore is to provide an outlook for 2014 and outline ACOA’s role in the economic development of the Atlantic region when he addresses members of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce at a noon luncheon. Business leaders are hoping to hear federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty won’t further reduce ACOA’s budget this year as he tightens spending to produce a balanced budget before the federal election in October 2015.

Ottawa is touting the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as a key plank in the next election. The free trade deal signed last fall is expected to inject $12 billion per year into the Canadian economy and in a year-end press release, Mr. Moore noted ACOA helped nearly 350 Atlantic Canadian businesses and organizations enter or expand their presence in international markets last year. Close to 60 incoming and outgoing trade missions were organized to help potential and existing exporters. Such trade missions are essential to help Island businesses access opportunities expected from CETA.

ACOA continues to be a major player in many business creation and expansion projects across P.E.I. And late last fall, ACOA guaranteed loans for the Newfoundland and Labrador government to construct the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project which may well help P.E.I. secure its long-term electricity requirements.

ACOA’s investments across P.E.I. are essential and funding must be maintained at current levels or even increased. Mr. Moore is sure to hear that loud and clear today.

Tories wise to delay convention

The Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. would be wise to delay its leadership convention until 2015. While the optics of such a delay would support the argument the party is having difficulty in attracting quality candidates, pushing the convention into 2015 far outweighs any temporary negatives.

The party needs time to raise money, both to pay a new leader in the likelihood it won’t be a present MLA, and to fund the next election campaign. A delay would be better timing for the vote, as the momentum from the convention would more closely follow into an election. Candidates being recruited by the party would be more inclined to run in a 2015 leadership campaign.

Interested local riding candidates likely will wait until they see who the new leader is before deciding to run, but there should be lots of time if the convention is late spring or even early fall next year as it still leaves more than seven months before the provincial vote.

The party still needs time to develop policy and heal from the bruising it took involving former leader Olive Crane. Those wounds will have more time to heal into 2015. The party met earlier this week but apparently didn’t come to any agreement on moving the convention.

Time is a great healer and Premier Robert Ghiz may have unwittingly boosted the Tories more than he planned or hoped by deciding on April 2016 for the provincial election rather than next spring.

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Fundy Royal, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I.

Geographic location: P.E.I., New Brunswick, Charlottetown Ottawa Iceland Newfoundland and Labrador

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