Strait of Canso group criticized by councillors

ARICHAT: Councillors had strong words for other municipalities which do not fund a group trying to promote the Strait of Canso.

On January 28 in Arichat, during the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council, Chief Administrative Office Kent MacIntyre recommended the municipality provide $5,000 for a promotional campaign by the Strait of Canso Local Stakeholder Group.

MacIntrye said the group was formed in 2016 under the direction of the Strait Area Mayors and Wardens Committee and includes 17 key industries, six municipalities, and five economic development partners to concentrate on the Strait of Canso economic zone.

The CAO said the goals of the group are to maximize sustainable economic opportunities in the Strait area.

“Essentially, the group said if we’re going to start concentrating on economic development, then one of the first steps is to develop some material that can sell the region,” MacIntyre told council.

The total cost for project is $140,000, MacIntyre said, which includes a promotional video, brochures, a planning strategy, marketing and branding, and a Web site.

MacIntyre said those who provide financial support will receive copies of the video, as well as other promotional material to distribute.

The stakeholder group includes the Eastern Strait and Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Networks; the Municipalities of Guysborough, Antigonish County, Inverness County, Richmond County, and the towns of Port Hawkesbury and Mulgrave; the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce; Nova Scotia Business Inc.; the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; EDI Investment Canada; and employers around the region.

“This is the first time this has been done in this region, where there has been this much collaboration to try and move forward economic development initiatives and marketing and branding,” MacIntyre told council.

“When you look at it, we get access to all that material that we can use. For a $5,000 investment, I mean we couldn’t buy that ourselves.”

Although he supported the request, district 1 councillor James Goyetche wanted to know why only three municipalities were funding the group, but six units were listed as partners.

“All six municipal units are part of this program… any benefit that’s going to be derived from it, will benefit the other three municipal units,” Goyetche told council. “If they’re into this process, I can’t see why they can’t pay.”

Richmond Warden Jason MacLean responded that there are only a couple of municipalities immediately around Point Tupper.

“I think there are some municipalities that stand to gain a little bit more than others,” MacLean said.

Deputy Warden Brian Marchand said the Town of Mulgrave does not contribute but has several businesses from the town on the group.

“I think they should be asked as well,” Marchand said.

Another concern of Marchand’s is that there have been more than 600 reports commissioned since 1960 on the Strait of Canso; only 60 of which were actually reviewed, some of which were paid for by the municipality.

“Here we go again with another $5,000 for a $140,000 project,” Marchand told council. “We’re all well aware that [Liquified Natural Gas Ltd.] and [Goldboro LNG] will not come just because of this document or will not happen.

“It just seems all we’re doing is producing studies and documents, documents, documents since 1960.”

The Deputy Warden also wondered whether the stakeholder group will duplicate the work already being done by the municipality to market its industrial park in Point Tupper.

Marchand pointed out that one of the main partners in the group, Nova Scotia Business Inc., has failed to properly promote the Strait of Canso to the extent it has the Port of Halifax.

Like Marchand, district 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher said the future of projects like the Energy East Pipeline have more impact over development decisions than promotional campaigns.

“We’ve spent millions of dollars in that area, and we’ve developed nothing,” Boucher told council.

District 2 councillor Alvin Martell pointed out that the contribution of partners like ACOA is contingent on funding from other partners, but the other municipalities need to be fully part of the process.

“When you’re in a group, you’re not always contributing and working as a group to benefit your own,” Martell noted. “Sometimes people get more, sometimes people get less.”

Although Marchand was the lone nay vote, council approved the motion to contribute the $5,000 to the group but they are requesting funding from the other municipalities.