TORONTO, Ont. — Paul Martin is promising to act on an ambitious plan to boost Atlantic Canada through investments in infrastructure, innovation and training.
In his first press conference after winning the federal Liberal leadership, Martin said the only way to fix the region’s lagging economy is through the kind of concerted approach outlined in the “Rising Tide” report recently released by the party’s Atlantic wing.
He said Rising Tide – like its predecessor “Catching Tomorrow’s Wave” which spawned the five-year $700-million Atlantic Investment Partnership are both “really, really solid documents” that advocate structural changes instead of ad-hoc programs.
“I think they indicate the way we have to go forward,” Martin said.
Some Liberals at the convention noted Ottawa has already been moving on their agenda with announcements such as the $200-million contribution to help twin the last of the Trans-Canada Highway through New Brunswick.
But Martin also appeared to be trying to lower expectations from the likes of Fredericton Liberal MP Andy Scott, who has predicted the new prime minister will move quickly with investments that would reduce the long-term employment insurance and equalization payments Ottawa makes.
“Obviously one would like to front end it as much as we possibly can,” Martin said. But he added, “the numbers (Finance Minister) John Manley has projected certainly show that over the course of the next two years the government is going to be very, very tight.
“We are going to live within our means,” he continued, “but we can establish the (economic) priorities, and essentially what they say (in Rising Tide) is a short-, medium- and long-term track as to how, in fact, we can make sure the Atlantic Canadian economy is strong.”
Charlottetown Liberal MP Shawn Murphy, who chaired the committee that produced the Rising Tide report, acknowledged the process of federal investment may prove to be “a marathon rather than a sprint.
“I think Mr. Martin will move on our agenda, but I think we also have to be patient,” Murphy said.
Among other things, Rising Tide calls for better telecommunications and air service in the region and a network of modern highways. It also advocates hefty investments in research and development and risk capital, and proposes new policies to foster immigration and lifelong learning.
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