Great news greets the start of summer

Strait Area Women’s Place got some good news last week in terms of a funding announcement from the province. Pictured here are (from left) Stephanie MacInnis-Langley, the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women; Marina Martens, Executive Director of Leeside Transition House and Strait Area Women's Centre; Kelly Regan, Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women; and Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, Port Hawkesbury Mayor. (Photo by Grant McDaniel)

As if the start of summer, the end of school, work vacations and great weather isn’t enough, a few stories arose recently that were definitely welcome news.

Perhaps the biggest story of all was the provincial funding increase for the Strait Area Women’s Place from $70,000 to $205,716.

Executive director Marina Martens said the increase stabilizes the future of the centre for years to come.

The funding announcement was made on June 26, at the women’s centre office at 609 Church Street in Port Hawkesbury.

Kelly Regan, Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said the facility and the Leeside Society are part of the “fabric of the community,” and the investment is recognition of that important role.

The issue of helping seek shelter women from domestic violence in the Strait area dates back to the 1980s, when the Leeside Society was first formed. Executive director Marina Martens recalled that in those early days, violence at home was a taboo subject. Finding the money to combat such violence was no small feat as the group relied on volunteers and community fundraising to continue offering these vital services.

In the 26 years since, Martens said that same spirit remained in place. However, funding was always a challenge so the announcement filled her “with a profound sense of gratitude.”

Before the first government grant came through in 2013, the cost of operating Strait Area Women’s Place was shared between Leeside and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association. The centre was established in 2011 as a partnership between the two to provide more prevention-focused services including a wellness clinic, free summary legal advice, referral supports for therapeutic counselling, and a variety of other programs.

Now, the women’s centre is full-service and supports women and children from Inverness and Richmond counties and parts of Guysborough County.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said having the provincial funding in place is a game changer.

Days later, a new tourism hub at the St. Peter’s Canal National Historic Site, involving a partnership between Potlotek First Nation and the village of St. Peter’s, was unveiled to the public as the Canal Landing project.

The federal government invested a $79,551 non-repayable contribution to the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program.

Potlotek band councillor Anita Basque was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition, in part with the hiring of Tahirih Paul, as the economic development officer for Potlotek First Nation. Paul also serves as a director with the St. Peter’s Economic Development Organization.

Plans for the Canal Landing include renting out kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, stand-up paddle boards, bicycles, and fishing equipment. There will also be experiential tours including a medicine display and a sweet grass walk through the park.

Inside the two buildings – dubbed Nicolas Denys’ Trading Post and The Heart of Mi’kmaki, respectively – locally-made artwork, crafts and other souvenirs are available for purchase.

Parks Canada, which operates the site, said Canal Landing will enrich the tourism experience in St. Peter’s and foster strong relationships with community partners.

Amanda Mombourquette, the executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, said Cape Breton is on track for a successful tourism season and Canal Landing is a strong part of what the St. Peter’s area will offer.

Then during the annual general meeting of Strait Area Transit, it was revealed that profits are up and an expansion is underway.

Very possibly the biggest development for SAT was expanding the service into Victoria County, which is expected to start sometime this month. As well, future expansion is planned for Margaree, and SAT is actively looking into partnering with Cheticamp’s community transit service, L’Acabie.

Overall ridership is up, with the service making 21,000 one-way trips, as well as almost 7,000 charter trips this year.

In addition to expansion, a brand new accessible bus was purchased, and a provincial dispatch system is being worked on.

The service brought in total revenue of $830,278.49 while paying out $661,486.55, resulting in a fairly healthy bottom line. The service is reporting a net income of $168,791.94. SAT saw $50,587.33 worth of fares from Inverness County, $44,201.90 from Richmond, and $26,237.54 from other fares. Charter revenue topped out at $67,136.25.

The provincial government also put forward a considerable amount of money through grants and funding from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, which added up to $397,381.

Also mentioned was that a new SAT logo and Web site will be launched in the near future, and a GPS tracking system is also planned for the buses. A salary increase is being discussed for the bus drivers.

Not long before the June 28 meeting of SAT, Pieridae Energy Ltd. – the company behind the proposed Goldboro LNG facility – announced plans to acquire Shell Canada Energy’s assets in southern Alberta which secures the supply needed for its planned liquefied natural gas export facility in Guysborough County.

Pieridae’s Chief Executive Officer Alfred Sorensen said the news “demonstrates solid progress for our flagship Goldboro LNG project,” as it fulfills their promise to acquire additional gas supplies for the LNG facility.

Poised to be the first LNG company to market in Canada, Pieridae’s Goldboro LNG facility is expected to produce 10 million tonnes per year of LNG and supply much needed natural gas to Europe. The company has signed a 20-year sales agreement with German utility Uniper worth approximately $35 billion.

Pieridae continues to work with global engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root Limited to review an amended version of the previously prepared front-end engineering and design study for the local project.

Then on Canada Day, and in the midst of the start of the Festival of the Strait, the Grant’s Pond-Hemlock Trail was officially opened.

Well over 100 folks braved the rain to lace up their boots and accompany Strait Area Trails Association president Larry MacKeigan for a walk in the woods along the swanky 1.4 kilometres of trail.

The trail features a fish ladder, as well as a 46-foot long pedestrian bridge. The trail is also 85 per cent stroller accessible, with the remaining section expected to be fully accessible by the fall.

The new trail system links up to the Reeves Street Renewal and Revitalization Project and allows residents of areas like Tamarac Heights to go wherever they want in the town by foot or peddle bike, using the trail system.

These were all very welcome developments for the unofficial start of summer.

To see the local transition house receive $135,716 more per year in provincial funding, the official opening of the highly anticipated tourism project Canal Landing, Strait Area Transit expanding and offering more services, the Goldboro LNG project moving closer to reality, and 1.4 kilometres of trail completed in Port Hawkesbury is an embarrassment of riches.

Each item of good news will prove to be invaluable contributions to the area – of course some more than others – but collectively, they are more proof that the local economy and the entire Strait area are heading in the right direction.