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O'Toole: Atlantic Canada's economy needs to move forward

The federal Conservatives announced a plan to move the economy of Atlantic Canada forward, party leader Erin O'Toole said today.

"I think Atlantic Canada in general has been kind of taken for granted by Justin Trudeau," said O'Toole. "Nothing says that more than the fact that over six years the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency — something for entrepreneurs, small business — has never had an Atlantic Canadian minister."

O'Toole also cited Atlantic Canada's loss of representation on the Supreme Court and a diminishing market for seafood as having a huge impact on the region.

"It's really been disrespected," he said.

In particular, O'Toole directed his ire at CERB (and CRB). Federal support programs are failing, he says.

"If you talk to any tourism operator on the Island they would say to you they couldn't hire people in between the first and second wave, and they can't hire people now. That's not working," said O'Toole.

"On the CERB, there really should have been a push toward that only being there if there was no ability to work. When the Liberal government put all students onto the CERB that really was one of the most misguided moves, really, in our history, because it sent a bad signal."

The decision has impacted not just hotels, restaurants and service industries, he said, but family-owned businesses as well.

O'Toole proceeded to cite similar values with the governing Progressive Conservative party in PEI.

"We have the same desire to make sure that small business owners, people that work in the fishing industry and other parts of the sector aren't forgotten by Ottawa," he said.

"Many people feel that in the last few years they have been."

Lastly, O'Toole took aim at EI. "The seasonal nature of the Atlantic Canadian economy is critical to be respected within the EI system," he said.

"Having lived down here for many years and gotten to know the region — that's where I got my political start, was in Atlantic Canada as a volunteer — we need to make sure that programs like EI reflect and respect the seasonal nature of some of our economies."

"The Liberal Party, the Greens, the NDP, they all support turning the CRB into a universal basic income," he said. "Our country can't afford that. We'd lose health care and other things down the road, and it would change the fundamental social contract. Islanders are hard-working people."

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