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The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will have a dedicated parliamentary secretary in the 43rd Canadian Parliament.
Who that will be remains a mystery.
Canada has six regional development agencies including ACOA, Western Economic Diversification Canada, and Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
The agencies have the primary role of supporting innovation and economic growth in different regions of Canada through delivering tailored programs and access to financial assistance.
Traditionally, an existing minister from each of the regions has been responsible for these portfolios, or a minister was appointed entirely for that purpose.
For example, under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay held the title of minister of state for ACOA for a period while also serving in the Defense and Foreign Affairs portfolios.
Under former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, P.E.I. MP Joe McGuire’s sole role in cabinet was ACOA minister.
ACOA and the man from Mississauga
Justin Trudeau drew criticism in 2015 when he nixed the tradition of appointing individual ministers for these roles, and left all six agencies to the minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, a post occupied by Mississauga MP Navdeep Bains since 2015.
But Wednesday’s cabinet announcement saw some shifting of titles and roles.
While Bains will remain, officially, the minister for the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, his title has changed to minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
Quebec MP and former Tourism and Official Languages minister Mélanie Joly was named minister of Economic Development and Official Languages. She will manage the economic development mandate of that department in her new role.
Joly told reporters during a scrum on Thursday she would also be responsible for the six economic development agencies and will have six parliamentary secretaries assisting her in the role.
Speaking with SaltWire, Matt Pascuzzo, press secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office, confirmed there would be a dedicated parliamentary secretary for each of the agencies, and where possible, the MP selected would likely be from the region serviced by the agency.
The move is unsurprising given Trudeau’s focus on national unity and combating western alienation in crafting his cabinet, something that will be particularly important as he navigates a minority scenario.
“The election was pretty clear, people from different parts of the country made their voices heard, and I think if we can get people to those regions that are from those regions and can have an ear to the ground ... that is the best way to proceed in terms of economic development,” Pascuzzo said.
“You'll see we're doing a more regional focus in a variety of ministers' positions. It's a lot of making sure that all the regions of Canada are taken care of equally as best as possible.”
Pascuzzo said the parliamentary secretaries will be named in the near future.