The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2006 March 28

Minister speaks at chamber meeting


St. George — The Eastern Charlotte Chamber of Commerce in St. George held its annual general meeting Friday at the St. George Curling Club.

Guest speaker was Minister of Veterans Affairs, Greg Thompson, who spoke to chamber members about his appointment to Cabinet, and issues that he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper dealt with on Friday when Harper visited New Brunswick.

The new chamber executive was elected after Minister Thompson spoke. Terry Keleher is the new president, Wanda McLean will be first vice-president, Irene Wright is secretary, and Cathy Justason is treasurer.

Minister Thompson said he joked with the Prime Minister about having the use of better cars now that he is a member of Cabinet.

"I kind of miss getting into those taxis in Ottawa that haven't been vacuumed out in six weeks," Thompson said.

The Minister said people in Charlotte County wanted a change, and that his party wants to prove themselves as a worthy government. He said they are focused on doing "the right things for the country."

Thompson went on to talk about the Federal funding that was announced on Friday. He spoke about Moncton entering the bidding process to host the Junior Games.

"If they are successful in that, the Government of Canada has committed themselves to helping build a stadium to host it. It will be a big boost for the economy of New Brunswick if they are successful," said Thompson.

Another area the government will help fund will be highway projects, which will receive funds of $400 million. Some of that funding will be designated to twinning the highway from St. Stephen to Saint John.

When he finished speaking about Government funding, Minister Thompson talked about the aquaculture industry in Charlotte County.

He said that there have been some "setbacks" in the industry recently, and that those setbacks could be felt in the community. He mentioned being on Grand Manan recently, and said there was a "high mortality rate in the industry."

Due to these companies being gone, there are many people who lost employment.

"That's what happens when governments don't do the right things. If they had stepped up earlier on, then we wouldn't be in that problem today. Now, it's our watch. We are now government. We've got to do the right thing to get the industry through this crisis."

Thompson said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an economist, and understands this situation.

"It's nice to go out and support community projects, but where does the money come from? It comes from real industries like aquaculture and fisheries, and saw mills and little retail businesses that you people run. You are the people that generate those tax dollars. We can't afford to lose the aquaculture industry, and we've had many meetings in Ottawa on that following the election."

Thompson said he met with the Minister of Fisheries, and with officials, to follow through a plan, which includes the provincial government.

"I wish I could stand here today and say it's completed. It isn't, but we're working hard. The Prime Minister knows how important it is. It's one of the industries that we can't afford to lose. It's really critical to this community," said Thompson.

Thompson said there are many other issues to deal with.

He hinted at good news, which would be announced for St. George in the coming week. He said the good news would involve a water project.

"There is some good news coming for St. George, and some of the other smaller communities. You're going to get back to having the best drinking water in all of Canada," Thompson commented.

Thompson said he feels the most important issue for residents is education. He said there have been many successes in Charlotte County, and there are "well-trained individuals" in the area, and there have been too many "missed opportunities" over the years in New Brunswick, and the Premier is very focused on education.

"It means both levels of government getting it right when it comes to education. The competition we face is not across the street. It is in some part of the world that we never thought we'd be competing with. So, we have to be smarter and better at what we do. We are meeting that challenge."

Minister Thompson spoke about the loss of young people in the province to other opportunities in other provinces.

He said the population in Atlantic Canada is smaller than before, which he called "frightening."

He said we need to "grow our population base" here, and work on that by keeping our young people here. He spoke about the loss of skilled workers in the province, and how many will be coming in from other provinces to work on various projects.

The Minister also talked about the many issues Charlotte County faces, including the LNG issue, which he maintains being against, and said his party will work to fight against.

"We've got so many issues, big ones, that are playing out right here in our neighbourhood. It's nice to know that we're in a position to maybe make a difference in some of those issues."

When Thompson had finished speaking, the Chamber presented him with a gift of smoked salmon, which Thompson called "a great gift."

"The box itself is a great gift," said Thompson, who added, "it's really appreciated. That's very kind of you."

After Thompson spoke, the meeting was held. Vincent Young, former president, was not in attendance at the meeting, and Keleher read the President's report. He spoke about some of the things the Chamber has worked on during the last year.

"One of the things that we've done is that we are looking at building a website for the Eastern Charlotte chamber. We have been working on that for the last little while, and we're looking at trying to make sure our site works in conjunction with Eastern Charlotte. We're hoping to have it up and running in the next little while," said Keleher.

Keleher also mentioned the success of trade shows, and said the chamber is looking at more of these. He said they are trying to find out what chamber members are interested in, and what is needed.

"We've had some guest speakers over the last year or so, and we hope to continue doing that, and be creative."

Keleher thanked the St. George Curling Club for providing the meal for the evening, and set the tentative date for the Chamber's next meeting, for April 12.


© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB