December 10, 2019

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New role on Prairies "perfect balance" during cancer fight, Carr says

OTTAWA — A month after being diagnosed with blood cancer, Winnipeg MP Jim Carr says he'll do his best to oversee the Prairies for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"It's the card I've been dealt and I'm dealing with it the best way that I can," Carr told the Free Press Thursday. "We'll take it day by day."

Carr, who represents Winnipeg South Centre, was upbeat and energetic Thursday, two weeks after he was last on Parliament Hill.

Vandal awaits PM's priorities for North

OTTAWA — Dan Vandal says he’ll take a grassroots approach to being Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s head of northern issues.

“The era of just going into a region and thinking you have the solutions is over,” the Saint Boniface-Saint Vital MP said in an interview Thursday, a day after being appointed northern affairs minister.

OTTAWA — Dan Vandal says he’ll take a grassroots approach to being Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s head of northern issues.

“The era of just going into a region and thinking you have the solutions is over,” the Saint Boniface-Saint Vital MP said in an interview Thursday, a day after being appointed northern affairs minister.

Vandal, who is of Métis descent, said he's the first minister in decades to have a separate Northern Affairs team, thanks to changes the Liberals made in this summer that effectively carved out a bureaucracy operating at arm's length from those handling Indigenous and intergovernmental affairs.

Vandal will oversee programs that include the repeatedly reformed Nutrition North food subsidy and issues such as climate change adaptation, transportation, foreign affairs, resources and mining.

As parliamentary secretary for Indigenous services, Vandal helped oversee the Liberals’ child-welfare reform and ending boil-water advisories on reserves such as Shoal Lake 40.

While the bill has detractors — especially in Manitoba — Vandal noted it was crafted in partnership with Indigenous leadership.

“The child-welfare legislation… is something that I think is going to be the model going forward in the North,” he said.

He added that he’ll keep abreast of Churchill’s quest to become economically viable.

“We need local ownership; that's important for difficult issues,” he said.

As former board chair for broadcaster APTN, Vandal briefly visited Whitehorse and Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec, though he admitted he has yet to see most of the territories.

Vandal wasn’t sure what success will look like, given a minority mandate that will focus on short-term goals. He has yet to receive Trudeau’s marching orders in a mandate letter.

“I think the will is there to work on environmental issues, quality-of-life issues,” he said. “That’s just the reality of working in a minority government and I’m taking a positive attitude to it.”

—Dylan Robertson

"I’m feeling stronger all the time," he said, a day after Trudeau changed his role from being a cabinet minister to filling a new post as Special Representative for the Prairies, which Carr said struck "the perfect balance" between his health and skill set.

Carr was previously leading trips abroad as minister of international trade diversification, and steered major pipeline decisions as minister of natural resources.

His new job represents a change in pace from the gruelling schedule and travel associated with those files, as well as filling the role of handling major Manitoba files.

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr says he'll do his best to oversee the Prairies for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr says he'll do his best to oversee the Prairies for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Instead, MP Dan Vandal will shepherd Manitoba issues and serve as northern affairs minister, while Carr will provide big-picture advice to the prime minister.

"I’m confident that what I've been asked to do is important and I have the energy to do it," he said.

A month ago, Carr was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — which causes cancer cells to accumulate in bone marrow — just hours after being re-elected Oct. 21. He told reporters it left him "not a lot of time to savour the victory."

On Thursday, Carr sat in at Trudeau’s morning meeting with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, along with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Carr said the Liberals might revise the regulations for megaprojects that came in under Bill C-69. That law has been hugely controversial in Alberta, where some have dubbed it "the no-more-pipelines bill," though it hardly registered in an election focused on swing ridings near Montreal and Toronto.

“I’m confident that what I've been asked to do is important and I have the energy to do it.” — Jim Carr

"My job is to listen and to ensure that the centre of the government is fully aware of what’s on the minds of Albertans and the people of Saskatchewan and Manitoba," he told reporters, saying his role will go beyond energy to touch on agriculture, transportation and intellectual property.

"The important thing is the spirit and the attitude that we bring to the task at hand," Carr said, adding he feels "an awful lot of goodwill" from the three provinces, where there is untapped potential.

"We have to cut through a sense of alienation."

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Jim Carr, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi in his office on Parliament Hill. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Jim Carr, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi in his office on Parliament Hill. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

He said he didn’t ask Trudeau to keep him in cabinet.

Impaired kidney function is a common complication of the disease, and Carr said he can have dialysis treatment in either Ottawa or Winnipeg, but would not get into specifics of his medical regimen.

Vandal said he'll be in charge of managing the relationship between Ottawa, Premier Brian Pallister and Mayor Brian Bowman on issues such as infrastructure spending, health care and Winnipeg's methamphetamine crisis, where all three levels of government need to be on the same page.

He said this week’s provincial throne speech gave him hope the Pallister government wants to share costs with Ottawa on more transit, road and community centre projects.

"If the province is not at the table, then that's going to be very, very difficult to do," he said. "I'm glad that they've signalled that they want to invest in solving the infrastructure problem in Manitoba."

Asked how he would handle controversial issues like the Manitoba Metis Federation’s conflict with the province over compensation for a Hydro transmission line to Minnesota, Vandal said he’d work with other cabinet ministers towards what’s best for Manitobans.

"I’m gonna address questions from a fairness perspective every step of the way," he said.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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