Lawrence MacAulay

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Cardigan

Lawrence MacAulay

Your member of parliament for


Cardigan

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Q&A: Lawrence MacAulay talks U.S. trade deals and Island economy

Federal agriculture minister, Island MP says P.E.I. needs to market its products to the world

By Viola Pruss, CBC News Posted: Jan 26, 2017 8:04 PM ATLast Updated: Jan 26, 2017 8:04 PM AT

Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay speaks during question period at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay speaks during question period at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Lawrence MacAulay, the federal minister for agriculture and MP for Cardigan, sat down with P.E.I. Mainstreet for an interview Thursday.

He shared his thoughts on everything from President Donald Trump’s talk of future trade deals to Ottawa overpaying the province millions of dollars in HST payments, the toll of the Confederation Bridge, and a meeting in Nova Scotia on the Atlantic Growth Strategy.

CBC: What concerns do you have, if any, about U.S. President Donald Trump’s intentions to renegotiate NAFTA? From a P.E.I. perspective, what would be your concern?

LM: We are a trading nation and as you know we export a large amount of fish and agricultural products and it’s important for us. And that’s why I was in China and other places around the world making sure that people are fully aware of the products we have and the quality of products we have and the regulatory system we have.

That’s the trade minister’s job and in fact the government’s job to make sure that the world understands that we have all kinds of quality products. But also remembering that the United States is our greatest friend and closest neighbour and we certainly intend to continue that great relationship.

CBC: We learned this week that Ottawa has overpaid the province millions of dollars in HST payments. We are hearing $30 million, is that what you are hearing?

LM: My understanding is the federal finance officials and the provincial officials are working on this. Whatever they resolve they will resolve but of course always I’ll do anything I can in order to help Prince Edward Island. We have to see what’s developed first when the officials sit down and decide what’s going to take place and then we see what happens.

CBC: The Prime Minister said he will talk to Island MPs about the concerns about the cost of the toll of the Confederation bridge. Have you spoken to the Prime Minister about this?

LM: I’ve said it publicly. As you know there is a contract on the bridge. But I’m certainly open to having it free as long as the Wood-Islands Caribou ferry service is free.

CBC: Anything new on the idea of a new ferry?

LM: Nothing yet. Since I’ve been elected as MP that’s something that’s always been very important in my agenda and I can assure you I am working on it and hopefully we’ll be able to come up with a solution. Hopefully a long term contact is what I’m trying to achieve.

CBC: You are in Wolfville, N.S., for a meeting (Friday) dealing with the Atlantic Growth Strategy. What is the growth strategy?

LM: It’s a concerted effort by the four Atlantic premiers and the four cabinet ministers to make sure that we have the economic growth that we can and should have.

On the first of January, we announced the policy on immigration to bring more people into the province and we will be working together to make sure that we will come up with other initiatives that help the area as a whole.

What we want to do is make sure is that whatever we put in place does nothing but expand the economy, expand the growth area, help more people join the middle class. I grew up shipping potatoes in 100 pound bags. Now we want to make sure that they are packed in a way that the farmers get the greatest return, to make sure that the beef products are well known worldwide, and all the other products.