Canada’s inaugural minister of rural economic development is herself a first – the first woman representing Nova Scotia in the federal cabinet.
MP Bernadette Jordan was sworn into the newly minted portfolio in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet Monday morning, after MP Scott Brison announced his sudden departure last week.
Jordan was also the first woman elected to represent her riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, in 2015.
Jordan is to create a rural-development strategy, including bringing high-speed internet to rural communities and help in rural infrastructure development, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but in a rural community because I feel there’s a real sense of community, because of that I was always somebody who wanted to give back,” Jordan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“One of the reasons I ran to begin with was because I felt strongly that rural Canada, or rural Nova Scotia had to be better represented.”
Jordan said she’s planning to prioritize broadband and cell phone connectivity to make it easier for Canadians to build lives in rural Canada.
“There are a lot of people who would like to work in rural Canada, who would like to set up businesses, who would like to study from there and it’s just not possible because of poor connectivity,” she said.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil tweeted his congratulations to Jordan on her historic appointment on Monday: “She will lead a file that is very important to Nova Scotians and I look forward to working with her.”
Rob Moore, Conservative shadow minister for Atlantic Canada, wished Jordan well with her new portfolio, but questioned Trudeau’s motives so close to October’s federal election.
Moore said the new portfolio “appears to just be a communications exercise” that may stand for too little, too late.
“It appears to be just to give off the impression that they’re connected or concerned with Atlantic issues, when in fact the last three years tells us that Atlantic and rural issues are on the backburner,” Moore said.
Trudeau’s cabinet came under fire from some Atlantic Canadians when Navdeep Bains, a Mississauga MP, was put in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Criticism also followed when New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc was shuffled out of the Fisheries portfolio to be replaced with Jonathan Wilkinson, who represents North Vancouver.
Jordan said Monday the government has a genuine commitment to rural Canada.
“I think it’s an unfortunate thing that people don’t consider rural important, because rural is extremely important to this government, we’re showing that,” she said.
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Jordan, who has three children with her husband, Dave, studied politics at Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University.
She has previously served as Atlantic caucus chair, chair of the standing committee of fisheries and oceans, and parliamentary secretary for the minister democratic institutions.
Before her time in Ottawa, Jordan worked in the community newspaper industry and as a fundraiser for the local Health Services Foundation in Bridgewater.
Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell said Jordan will make a great advocate for rural Canada in her new role. He called Jordan “exactly what you want in an MP.”
Jordan introduced a motion in 2016 requesting action on removing derelict vessels abandoned in Canada’s coastal communities, an issue affecting her own riding.
Ottawa later towed the MV Farley Mowat, the one-time flagship of an environmental crusader that had long since become a derelict, polluting eyesore, out of Shelburne, Nova Scotia’s harbour, to great fanfare. Jordan calls the moment her “proudest accomplishment” on the issue.