Funding for schools, housing, fishery welcome, but Strait area left out in other announcements

Recent funding announced for local schools, especially the major project in Pomquet, will be well spent, but it was unfortunate the area was left out of other funding announcements.

During a virtual press conference on Jan. 28, it was announced that École acadienne de Pomquet was getting a facelift to the tune of an $8 million infrastructure and school expansion project.

Education minister Zach Churchill said the funding will create new learning spaces and classrooms.

The Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development intends to match the Government of Canada’s investment of $3,441,270 for the school’s expansion project, through a substantial commitment to create eight new modern classrooms at the existing school.

The infrastructure project involves the construction of a new community wing and the expansion of its school wing, the province noted.

Churchill indicated this investment is on top of the previous investment from the province to construct the new Centre culturel et communautaire de Pomquet.

According to the minister, these renovations will also allow for the creation and establishment of the proposed cultural centre, which is intended to provide its residents with a gathering place where they can share their heritage.

A release from the province stated the new community facilities will include a daycare centre with room for 20 to 25 children age three and under, a meeting room, a multi-purpose room that can accommodate up to 150 people, an industrial-style kitchen, storage space and two offices.

Additionally, the Pomquet Area Cultural Recreation Community Development Association (PACRCDA) will contribute $800,000 from funds raised by the community to be allocated to support additional community spaces.

Not just Pomquet, but according to the updated 2020-25 school capital plan, the province is calling for an additional $64.2 million in new and existing projects, and to address increased construction costs related to the pandemic, enrollment growth and environmental matters.

In the Strait area, projects are underway at East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy and Cape Breton Highlands Education Centre/Academy.

Violet MacLeod, communications advisor with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said construction on skilled trade facilities are scheduled to be completed during the 21/22 fiscal year.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced $1,262,400 for Canso Seafoods, to provide state of the art lobster cooking and processing equipment.

Also, federal and provincial funding will help the Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS) construct a 12-unit, four building development opposite Antigonish Education Centre and Saint Andrew Junior School.

These were very welcome announcements that will be well received, by what about the announcements that didn’t include the region?

On Jan. 25, Develop Nova Scotia announced that expansions to existing contracts for internet for Nova Scotia Initiative projects will provide access to high-speed internet connections to an additional 5,600 homes and businesses, extending coverage to 99 per cent of Nova Scotia.

Unfortunately, none of the areas announced were in the area.

Then it was later announced that the EDGE pilot program, which provides eligible Employment Support and Income Assistance clients aged 18-26, is expanding, but Strait area communities were not among the recipients.

Perhaps the biggest omission among the flurry of recent funding announcements is the provincial government’s plan to add new long-term care beds and replace or renovate seven nursing homes across the province.

Although one of the recipients on new work was Foyer Pere Fiset in Chéticamp, and that funding is badly needed and will be well spent, there are multiple local facilities that could have also used some upgrades and extra space.

Like those in northern Inverness County, successful recipients in other parts of the province also need internet upgrades, repairs of replacement of long-term care facilities and more beds, as well as help for young adults. Undoubtedly make good use of this money.

Although they could receive funding from this and other sources soon, there was a solid case for parts of this region receiving internet improvements now, specifically in communities with little or no service.

Hopefully, provincial officials will soon see fit to provide local groups and residents with funding under the EDGE pilot program, or similar programs, since there is a need to help young people.

It is a thankless job to announce funding, because for every happy recipient, there is a unhappy rejected applicant. It is also understandable that government does not have a bottomless stream of funding for each and every community and group that wants funding.

But in the midst of the pandemic, and given the deep social and economic impacts, it is getting tougher to leave anyone out, especially in important areas like communication, health care and helping the vulnerable.

Even if transmission of COVID-19 is controlled by mass vaccinations, the economic effects will be felt for some time to come, and will be damaging. At that point, it will be impossible to leave anyone out.