Her job is to seek out economic devastation. She didn’t think it would come looking for her

The whole idea of “distressed regions” in Canada has been shaken up by the pandemic — economic despair has headed downtown.

With COVID-19 rampaging through high-density areas of the country such as the GTA and Montreal, the federal government’s attention to regional development has become a lot more urban in the past couple of months.

Mélanie Joly, the minister in charge of economic development, says the pandemic has forced a big shift in the geographic focus of her department.

“We have to go to downtowns and we have to support businesses in downtown Montreal, in downtown Ottawa, in downtown Toronto,” Joly said in a conversation with me this week. “That’s what we need to do because all the storefronts of all the main streets, the merchant types of streets are affected, and will continue to be affected. So, it’s going to be a first for us … and I’ve changed a bit the mission of the agencies to get there.”

Back in January, I sat down with Joly to talk about her then-new job and what she intended to do with responsibility for economic development across the country. It was a big job — Joly had been handed oversight of the six different agencies that normally distribute around $1.2 billion in federal aid to prop up local business and industry.

She talked over breakfast in the Chateau Laurier about how this new responsibility was going to take her to remote pockets of the country, where many citizens were feeling neglected by the federal government.

full story at https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2020/05/29/her-job-is-to-seek-out-economic-devastation-she-didnt-think-it-would-come-looking-for-her.html

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