Canada’s newest Minister of Rural Economic Development stopped through Prince Albert Sunday and Monday during her first visit to Saskatchewan since taking on the portfolio in January.
Bernadette Jordan spoke to a group of Liberal supporters at a private event Sunday before making a joint funding announcement for highway improvements Monday morning. She then headed off to Meadow Lake for an announcement there and is set to speak to Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) delegates at the annual conference Tuesday morning.
The minister said her trip is an opportunity to speak about issues important to rural communities.
“It’s been really great because I’ve heard from so many wonderful people about things that are challenges they’re facing in rural communities and better ways to go forward,” Jordan said during an interview Monday.
“I’ve been travelling right across the country, and some of the challenges here are the same as challenges I’ve heard in Manitoba or B.C., but they also have unique challenges as well. It’s good to get a fulsome look at the whole country and find out how we can best go forward to make sure we can mitigate some of the problems people are facing.”
The Rural Economic Development portfolio is a new one that was just introduced in January, making Jordan the first Rural and Economic Development minister. She comes from a rural riding herself, representing South Shore – St. Margarets in Nova Scotia. She is only the second Liberal to win a seat in the riding since 1968.
“I’m not afraid to talk to the media, I’m not afraid to talk to my constituents,” she said during her Sunday speech.
“I don’t avoid them. I make sure I’m there, I’m front and centre. If they have questions, I answer them.”
Monday, she said she isn’t worried about meeting with other political leaders in rural Saskatchewan, an area that typically supports conservative governments.
“I think we’re all there to represent the same people. Hearing from communities is extremely important to us,” she said.
“There are a number of Liberal MPs that are rural. That’s why we have a rural caucus, which this (cabinet) position came out of. For me, It’s more about finding out how governments can work together, how provincial, municipal, territorial and Indigenous groups can work together to make sure that we do address some of the challenges facing rural Canada.
When asked if she had heard concerns surrounding the carbon tax, Bill C-69 and pipelines, Jordan said she had, though she added that other topics have also been commonly brought up.
“I’ve also heard about things like access to … affordable housing,” she said. “I’ve heard about things like broadband and cellphone coverage. Those are some of the big challenges we’re facing as well. We take all of those into account when we … try to figure out the best ways for our rural communities to stay vibrant.”
Jordan also reaffirmed the Trudeau government’s commitment to getting the Trans Mountain Pipeline built.
‘We have every intention of making sure the pipeline is built, but we have to make sure it’s done in the right way,” she said.
“The courts and the (National Energy Board) have given us a roadmap on how it can be done and we’re making sure that it doesn’t get tied up in a court process so we can make sure we get it built. That’s definitely one of the priorities o us right now.”
Monday night, she also alluded to discussions surrounding the federal carbon tax.
“Make sure that (people) know that yes, sometimes the things we have to take on for climate change are tough, but what are the things that are going to happen if we don’t?” she asked.
“What is going to happen with this world if we don’t tackle climate change? I live in a coastal community. We’re losing the shorelines. Flooding — I know in Saskatchewan that’s an issue. Flooding, fires and drought are all effects of climate change and they’re having an impact on us. Not only economically, but in the health of our communities.”
Jordan criticized the conservatives, who have yet to roll out a climate change plan.
“It’s easy to say ‘oh we’ll do something,’ but then not tell us what it is, that’s not an answer,” she said.
“We need to find the answers, and we have a leader, and we have a party that stands behind making sure we find those answers. I’m extremely proud of a government willing to take that bull by the horns because not many are.”