In the past few weeks, the Government of Canada has announced or confirmed a dizzying amount of funding for new or existing programs and infrastructure affecting residents of the Strait area.
Three weeks ago, the feds announced more than $775,000 from the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund to the Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative and Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia for projects focusing on treatment and recovery for eligible veterans, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police members, and their families.
The Canadian Women’s Wellness Initiative has been approved to receive $48,715 in funding to offer stress-reduction training to veterans and their families. It will offer a transcendental meditation program to help veterans and their families deal with toxic stress, occupational stress and post-traumatic stress.
The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia will be receiving $727,876 over the next five years to support “Landing Strong,” a 12-week day-treatment program helping veterans and their families to address the mental, moral and physical aspects of injury. The funding will also support year-round workshops, community connection days and social media education and support initiatives.
Not long after, the federal government announced that through the Community Opportunity Readiness Program, Paqtnkek First Nation will receive a total of $3.9 million; $2.9 million was provided for the Bayside Travel Centre (BTC) development project to support future business growth, and an additional $1 million went towards the construction of the $10.7 million BTC.
Paqtnkek Chief PJ Prosper said the community would not be at the point they are today without these funds, combined with the investments they were able to leverage through the First Nation Finance Authority.
The 16,000 square foot travel centre, 20 kilometres east of Antigonish, will cater to professional drivers offering a driver’s lounge that will include a separate entrance rest area with wall-mounted flat screen TVs, free WiFi and large showers with a secure change area. The BTC expected to open in October 2019, is located at the newly opened Highway 104 interchange and will include 24-hour retail fuel with complementary ‘call ahead’ service; a 24-hour diesel fuel card-lock station for long-haulers working the northeast corridor; an electric charging station; and a band-owned and operated convenience store. The development will bring a much-needed amenity to the area as it earmarks two quick-service restaurants, each with a drive-thru around an atrium that will feature a 50-seat public seating area.
Paqtnkek also benefitted from a federal investment for the construction of a new well that will provide a new main water supply to the community. The funding from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to the tune of $430,000, will include the installation of a well pump, the construction of a new pump house, the installation of 375-metres of water main, mechanical and electrical upgrades, and associated site work.
In the same announcement, it was revealed that ISC provided $2 million for water system upgrades for We’koqma’q First Nation, which includes 1,300-metres of water main replacement and the design and construction of a second well.
Through the Community Opportunity Readiness Program, We’koqma’q is also receiving $426,000 for the expansion of the Steelhead Trout Farm by providing dozens of full-time jobs, on-the-job training and increased revenue for the community-led business.
Around the same time, the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) on the campus of StFX University was approved for more than $7.7 million to enable Canada’s public health community to take action on the social determinants of health, helping to close the gap between those who are most and least healthy.
Over in Guysborough County, outgoing Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner announced $9 million investments for upgrades to a compost facility and a wastewater management system.
The Municipality of the District of Guysborough will construct two new organic material processing buildings, replace the existing facility, and increase the amount of organic materials being diverted from landfills to be processed for compost and soil.
The Town of Mulgrave is receiving a new wastewater treatment facility which will increase the its ability to manage and treat wastewater and storm water, and reduce overflows into nearby waterways. The current waste water treatment plant in Mulgrave is at the end of its life and will soon be out of compliance with regulations.
The Government of Canada is investing more than $3.6 million in these projects through the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream of the “Investing in Canada” infrastructure plan. The Government of Nova Scotia is contributing over $3 million in total, and the municipalities are contributing over $2.4 million combined.
Then it was announced that the Government of Canada is supporting Destination Cape Breton’s Community of Interest program to create social media content targeted at outdoor adventure enthusiasts and travelers passionate about Gaelic culture. Travel influencers with large social media followings will connect with local ambassadors to create and share content highlighting the unique Cape Breton experiences these enthusiasts are looking for.
The Government of Canada invested $60,000 in the Community of Interest program for outdoor adventure enthusiasts and $125,000 in the program for Celtic/Gaelic culture enthusiasts. Destination Cape Breton Association contributed $110,000 and Celtic Heart of North America provided $30,000 toward these projects.
Then August 20, the provincial and federal governments announced they reached a bilateral agreement under the National Housing Strategy. This agreement will be cost-shared by the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia. The almost $394.2 million investment includes almost $197.1 million from the Government of Canada and almost $197.1 million from the Government of Nova Scotia.
The 10-year agreement will attempt to protect, renew and expand social and community housing, and support housing repair, construction, and affordability. The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia will work together on the design and implementation of a new Canada Housing Benefit to provide financial support to families and individuals in housing need.
The agreement also acknowledges the importance of prioritizing people most in need, incorporating a human rights-based approach to housing, and applying a gender lens to all investments.
Then on September 4, the federal government announced funding of $197,622 over two years for the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association under the Victims Fund. The centre will address the gaps in sexual violence prevention on Nova Scotia university campuses and work to create the cultural change needed to end campus sexual violence through a program called “Waves of Change: Creating Campus Responses to Sexualized Violence.”
This program will take a prevention approach to sexualized violence on campuses. Students will learn various techniques to intervene as bystanders, support victims and to create social change. The centre will work closely with post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia and student union representatives to address this important issue.
That is a head-spinning list of announcements, funding breakdowns and new projects and programs, but it should be remembered that most, if not all, concern funding that has already been approved, allotted, and in some cases received and spent.
Yes, this could all fall under the category of old news, but the fact remains that government did commit these funds, this money is very important to local residents and groups, and some notice is required that there were recipients from the Strait area.
Not just possibly old news, the timing of this plethora of announcements and advisories is no coincidence. There is a federal election scheduled for October 21 in Canada, and it’s clear the governing Liberals want Canadians to know they are spending, as they promised to do during the 2015 election.
But was that exactly what Canadians wanted or even needed? Yes, enough voters wanted a government to inject money into a slowing economy four years ago, and the Liberals received that mandate, but this spending has also increased the budget deficit.
In the time since the last election, the government has delivered spending, more or less. It can be argued that they didn’t spend enough to fully stimulate the economy, but current employment and GDP growth numbers would suggest otherwise.
It can also be argued that the money went in the wrong direction. Many on the right side of the political spectrum suggest that tax cuts and tax breaks that go directly (that can also be argued) into the hands of Canadians does more for the economy than government programs.
Considering that tax cuts and breaks were offered during the Steven Harper years, yet Canada managed to slide into an economic downturn, it’s debatable whether those policies are a good fit in this country.
The Liberal government has spent and Canadians now have the receipts to prove it, whether that is what they actually wanted or needed is now up to voters.