One On One With A New Cabinet Minister

Photo of Ed Holder being sworn in as Minister of State (Science and Technology) on March 19, 2014. Photo from Stephen Harper's (@pmharper) Twitter account.

On Monday, London-West MP Ed Holder will begin his first full work week as a federal cabinet minister.

He was sworn in as the Minister of State for Science and Technology on Wednesday, March 19. reporter Avery Moore spoke to Holder about his new role, responsibilities, and how he learned that he would be joining Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet.


Avery Moore:  When did you find out you were going to be made a Minister of State?

Ed Holder: Literally, less than a day before it was official. I was asked by the Prime Minister’s Office to come up to Ottawa and that’s not uncommon. I’ve done that before for different reasons in my various roles in the House Of Commons, so it wasn’t particularly unusual. Within 15 minutes of meeting with one individual we went down the hall and I spoke to the Prime Minister. He said well, this is going to be an interesting day for you. And it was the very next day that I was sworn in as a member of the privy council and a member of cabinet.


AM: How did that conversation go, when the prime minister approached you and said we’d really like for you to be the Minister of State for Sciences and Technology?


EH: Prime Minister Harper is pretty casual in the sense that after he invites you to his office and sits you on the couch, he literally doesn’t waste a lot of time. He is a very direct and a very thoughtful individual. What he said to me is ‘Ed, there is something I would like you to do that would serve our country and honour the work you do in the House of Commons.’ And I said ‘oh, what’s that?’ [laughs] Then he said ‘I would like you to serve in our cabinet as the [Minister] of State for Science and Technology.’ That was pretty thoughtful.


AM: When he asks you to become a minister of state, obviously you say yes, but did he give you some indication as to why you were his pick?


EH: When you’re asked to be a minister of state, I can’t speak for the Prime Minister but look, I’ve been through two elections. I’d like to think that he believes that with my business experience, my working committee, being a member of the Industry Science and Technology committee, a member of the Board of Governors at Western for a full term and then reappointed until the next election. I think he looked at all of that and thought I’d be a great choice with my skill sets.


AM: What is your expectation of how your life and your role will change?


EH: I think that’s a thoughtful question. At this stage I have been buried in briefing books and meeting with the various research councils over the last two and a half days. I’ve met with a number of stakeholders and it’s to try to give me the best, broadest overview of what is a very exciting ministry. It’s about learning and understanding, so I’ve spent a lot of time over the passed few days listening.


AM: I know you’ve just been briefed but what is your understanding of your responsibilities moving forward?


EH: I think first it is important to share some good news with you. We’ve known this for a while but it is interesting that Canada is ranked first in the G-7 for research and development for Colleges and Universities. What’s made me really appreciate the importance of this ministry as I’ve been listening and speaking with stakeholders and councils is the true importance it plays in the kind of jobs of the future that Canada looks to create. We’ve said forever that it is about jobs and the economy and I think this particular ministry has it right.


AM: It does seem like a good fit for you and a good fit for London. There has been some discussion since this decision was made, that it has taken a while for London to have an MP become a cabinet minister. Do you see the science and technology role really gelling with what is going on here in London, with Western University and our tech industry?


EH: Here’s what’s great about this, it is about London and it is about Canada. As London is a microcosm of the greater part of the country, here is what I have found. When you look at organizations like our university and Fanshawe College, we’ve got some great success stories across the country. When you look in London at Tech Alliance and Let’s Talk Science and World Discoveries there are some really serious, serious players, which frankly mirror what exists right across the country.


AM: How do you think taking on these new responsibilities, that will see you travel more, will affect your constituents and how much of your face they will see?


EH: Londoners, particularly my constituents, will understand that when you’ve been asked to serve at this level that we do so and accept that as a great compliment. I will continue to make great efforts in London to serve my constituents. Here is what is nice, I’ve got some great staff that know what they are doing. My Conservative colleagues in London will contribute to this effort as well.  They’re tremendously clever and have great staff as well. So London will continue to be well served, that’s my promise to them, they will not feel diminished as a result.


AM: This is something rare perhaps for a politician but I’ve never heard a bad word said about you in this city. You do lots of community work, you’re out there shaking hands. Tom Mulcair had negative things to say about all of the appointments except yours. He says that he wishes you well and he thinks that you are a great person and he knows you will do a good job.  Now that you have this bigger role and more facetime, not just in London but across the country, what do you want people to know about you and how you serve your country?


EH: I think it is very nice that Mr. Mulcair said those things but I am still not going to cross over to the New Democratic Party [laughs], but let me say this. My Cape Breton mom said that community service is the price you pay to live in a place and I always took that very, very seriously. So from my end, if I become a role model to others to take that same spirit, wouldn’t that be a great legacy to leave?