PORT HAWKESBURY: For the second time in as many weeks, another municipal unit has officially voted to withdraw from the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN).
Officials with the Town of Port Hawkesbury passed a motion during a special public meeting on February 27 to confirm last year’s notice of intent to withdraw from the ESREN as of March 31.
Unlike their municipal counterparts in Guysborough who opted to give their full confidence in their own economic development department to continue the work outlined in their municipal strategic plan, Port Hawkesbury will now apply for membership with the Cape Breton REN, with their contribution being at the current budgeted amount.
“This was a very difficult decision, it certainly wasn’t a decision our council took lightly, it involved study and discussions occurring over several meetings during the last two months,” Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton told The Reporter on March 1. “At the end of the day, council made a choice that they thought would be to the best interest to the Town of Port Hawkesbury.”
She said the geography was one of the points that was discussed in terms of reasons for leaving ESREN and highlighted the fact they have all kinds of present and upcoming projects that are directly tied to Richmond County.
“We thought that it would be some advantages to move into the Cape Breton REN for that reason,” Chisholm-Beaton said. “With some of the changes that occurred recently with ESREN, some of our councillors felt that there wasn’t a direct connection to our geography.”
The town is appreciative of the work ESREN has accomplished in advancing economic development in the Strait region over the past four years, and the partnership they enjoyed with their neighbouring municipalities through their membership in the ESREN.
The Town of Port Hawkesbury hopes to continue the relationship through the Strait Area Mayors, Wardens, and Chiefs Committee, as well as other regional projects like the Strait of Canso Economic Zone.
Reflecting on their time with the ESREN, Chisholm-Beaton said they have certainly enjoyed their regional partnership with the other municipal units making up the REN but felt it was time to start a new venture in regional economic development and see what their future in the CBREN would look like.
“We’re very thankful to the experiences we’ve had in the last couple of years with the ESREN, wonderful relationships were formed with our municipal partners on the mainland of Nova Scotia,” she said. “My thoughts are, because we’ve had that experience, we’re able to build those relationships with our neighbouring mainland municipalities that will definitely go a long way in our future collaborations. We’re still going to be at the table, working with all of our Strait area municipalities in any and all capacities. We’re going to continue to work together, regardless of having a different REN.”
Chisholm-Beaton said for them it wasn’t about having access to different programming, it was about the benefit of being able to collaborate regionally with their nearest neighbours.
“The Town of Port Hawkesbury looks forward to the potential of working with the rural municipalities in Cape Breton through the membership in the CBREN led by the Cape Breton Partnership,” she said. “The change will help move a number of existing, planned and potential joint initiatives forward while continuing our relationship with the rest of the Strait region.”
Chisholm-Beaton explained it took council awhile to make a decision because it required a lot of discussion around the council table, and they share so many things in common with their neighbouring communities and municipalities on both sides of the Strait of Canso.
“So therein lies the challenge of having both RENs serving the Strait region,” she said. “We certainly want to pursue, in particular, port development, so for us we thought that maybe at this point in time we share heightened synergies with our nearest neighbours.”