Harper softens ACOA stance; says he supports agency, after all

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he didn’t want to scrap ACOA in 2004, and he does not want to get rid of the regional development agency now.

“I said in the last campaign and I’ll say again, we support ACOA and we want to see ACOA work in a way that’s not partisan or politically motivated, and assists the development of business in this part of the country, assist the development of infrastructure and research and development,” Harper said

That’s not exactly where Harper stood during the last election. On June 2, 2004, Harper promised to overhaul the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“We want the government out of the business of corporate welfare,” he said during a stop in Halifax.

In 2002, when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance, Harper said he would scrap ACOA.

Brian Lee Crowley, president of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, has long called for an end to business handouts. He noted that Harper promised yesterday to review all loan and grants programs in Canada.

Crowley said he expects a review would show ACOA grants do little to help the economy. It would allow a Conservative government to build support for change. It’s clear Harper has learned to tone down his attacks on ACOA, Crowley said.

“I’m sure a lot of people have said to him that you can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.”