P.E.I.-Ontario trade mission to India questioned

Premier Wade MacLauchlan's upcoming trade mission to India will be closely scrutinized, says Opposition Leader Jamie Fox.

'We should have some clearly defined benchmarks for success,' argues Opposition

P.E.I.'s Opposition hopes officials can save money on its trade mission to India by 'hitching a ride' with Ontario. ( ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Premier Wade MacLauchlan's upcoming trade mission to India will be closely scrutinized, says Opposition Leader Jamie Fox.

MacLauchlan and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will lead a delegation of business and education representatives on a mission to India to drum up business between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6 that will include stops in New Delhi and Mumbai.

"It is a chance for Canada's largest and smallest provinces to work together in increasing trade and investment that promises to help grow both of our economies," MacLauchlan said in a written release Tuesday. 

But, countered Fox in a written statement, the summit should should have clearly defined targets to measure its success, including real jobs.

"The province's last trade mission to India announced that an Indian IT company, Mphasis, would create 300 jobs on the Island. Four years later another trade mission nears and we are still waiting for those jobs to materialize," said Fox.

He said the trade mission should have included representatives from Island companies in the aerospace, bioscience, food and tourism sectors.

The mission will focus on cultivating relationships with India in the areas of renewable energy, sustainable development, food products and post-secondary education, and is part of ongoing efforts to promote goods, services, and expertise from P.E.I. in India, said the province.

Export goods, import students

The politicians, including P.E.I.'s Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald, will be accompanied by officials from UPEI as well as businesses Aspin Kemp and Associates, Coles Associates, and Portsmouth Atlantic.

P.E.I. Opposition Leader Jamie Fox says he wants to see real results form the province's India trade mission. (CBC)

They will be looking to increase Island exports and identify opportunities like joint ventures in water and air purification, hybrid power generation, and engineering infrastructure. 

UPEI, meanwhile, is looking to recruit students. More than 20 per cent of its students are from abroad. 

P.E.I. 'hitching a ride'?

The Ontario government has been planning this trade mission for months yet hasn't mentioned P.E.I.'s participation, Fox pointed out, which suggests a "junior partner role at best rather than a joint mission."

Trade missions are expensive, Fox said, and he hopes P.E.I. can trim costs by "hitching a ride" with Ontario. 

In contrast to Fox's criticism, Ontario's Opposition Progressive Conservatives are applauding Wynne for leading a mission to India to tap into a market where there is much interest in Ontario.

"Relationships matter. Relationships open doors," Opposition Leader Patrick Brown said last week.