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MP Gudie Hutchings takes on a new role

Following last month’s cabinet shuffle, MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountain) is now Minister Responsible for ACOA in addition to her portfolio as Minister of Economic and Rural Development. – File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST – On Wednesday, Jul. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a major cabinet shuffle, and as a result Guide Hutchings, Minister of Rural and Economic Development, was also assigned the portfolio of Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). ACOA’s goal is to create opportunities for economic growth in the region of Atlantic Canada by not only assisting businesses with becoming more competitive, but helping them to be more innovative and productive. This is achieved by working with communities in order to diversify and develop local economies. Hutchings couldn’t be happier for the opportunity. “It’s always a pleasure to serve and sit around the cabinet table as Minister of Rural and Economic Development, but now I’ve been asked to take on the Minister Responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, so that is just incredible,” said Hutchings. ”Everyone in Atlanta, Canada, especially here at home, they’re familiar with the work that ACOA does. I think every not for profit, every small business, every medium sized business has dealt with ACOA over the years. ACOA was put in place to help rise Atlantic Canada to the rest of Canada. It’s done phenomenal work, and I’m just proud to be the Minister now working with such an incredible team on the ground. They’re situated all across. The head office is in Moncton, but then each province has their own office. Ours, of course, is in St. John’s, but they have offices all throughout each province with people on the ground, working with their clients and potential clients every day.” Hutchings believes that the opportunities for continuing economic growth in Atlantic Canada are numerous. “When you look at what’s happening in critical minerals, when you look at what’s happening in offshore wind potential, when you look what’s happening in the tourism sector, there’s such potential there,” said Hutchings. “When you look at what’s happening in small and medium sized businesses, when you look at the population growth that we’re experiencing, all that relates to people looking for work or looking to start a new business and expand a business, or modernize, or do some product development, and that’s what ACOA is there to do. I know it’s challenging times for people still. We’re still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re still feeling the effects of this tragic war in Ukraine, but there are still some great things happening. The wind is just getting in our sails in Atlantic Canada, and ACOA is the one to help make those sails blow even stronger.” Hutchings believes that serving as Minister of Rural and Economic Development since 2021 gives her unique insight on how to move forward as the new Minister responsible for ACOA. “I’m passionate about rural and small communities, and over 60 per cent of Atlantic Canada is small communities,” said Hutchings. “I’ve met with all the vice presidents already of each of the provinces, and I’ve met with the head office and our discussions were about how we’re doing great work, but how can we do it even better? How can we reach even further? How can we make sure that people see that ACOA is there to help start, grow and expand businesses and work with communities and not for profits?” Even though good work is already being done, Hutchings wants to push ACOA even further. “Maybe it’s time to look and assess our programs. Do we need to add a few other programs? Do we need to expand our reach into other sectors now?,” said Hutchings. “That’s conversations that I had last week as I visited the regional offices to say, ‘let’s look at this’. We’re doing great work, but where are all the opportunities we can delve into and look and help business and community grow? We always talk about the environment and the economy. The third part of that is community. If you think of things as pillars or legs on a table, they all need to be equal. The environment, the economy and community, which is people, and how that all circles around together, and that’s one thing that ACOA has focused on. If your community is strong, you have good jobs, then that all relates back to the environment and the economy, and that’s how you grow a healthy area. So I want to make sure that we do that as much as we can for Atlantic Canada, and especially here at home in the Long Range Mountains.” Despite an already busy schedule as Member of Parliament for the Long Range Mountains and Minister of Rural and Economic Development, Hutchings has no doubt that she will be able to effectively manage these additional responsibilities. “The one thing with rural economic development, the number one issue there, the number one item in my mandate is the connectivity piece, and we’re doing so well on that,” said Hutchings. “In 2015, 2014, we had 78 per cent of the country that had access to affordable, reliable, high speed Internet, we’re now at – this spring – we’re at 93.5 per cent and we’re well underway to reach 98 per cent and succeed that by 2026, and then the rest of the country by 2030. So that one is getting done, and then my work, always advocating for small communities, will never stop, because I’m a firm believer that, if communities engage, then we’ve got to make sure that our programs and policies are designed to help small communities and big communities help everybody.”

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