The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is eliminating its funding to regional economic development groups in the Atlantic Provinces, effective May 2013.
ACOA was established in 1987 to stimulate Atlantic Canada's economy. It employs 718 people in 30 offices throughout Atlantic Canada, and due to the cut backs many people will be out of jobs.
The federal agency has decided to discontinue annual operational funding to the regional development authorities in Nova Scotia, regional development boards in Newfoundland and Labrador, community economic development agencies in New Brunswick, and similar community-based organizations in Prince Edward Island.
Jobs are being taken away after years of work and dedication, and workers are extremely upset and disappointed. Trying to save money by cutting jobs seems to justify their motives but the federal government has no idea or just doesn’t’ care what they are doing to the rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Don Stewart is the Chair of the Board and has been for the pass three years. Mr. Stewart held this position in the past and has been a member of the Boards since its inception over fifteen years ago.
“The announcement by the Federal Government to cut funding to Zonal Boards effective May 31/2013 came as a total shock to not only our Board but a shock to the entire region. This decision will have a devastating effect throughout the entire Coast of Bays Region,” stated Mr. Stewart.
“ The loss of service now being provided by the Board will be especially hard on the smaller communities that rely on the Board for services such as Training-Proposal Writing-Applications-Research and the completion and submitting of forms for projects.”
“The Coast of Bays, just over the past couple of years has taken the lead in many communities in lobbying for wharves, slipways and haulouts both for the aquaculture Industry and the traditional fishery. The Board has been heavily involved with the Milltown Council and the Harbour Breton Council in the Greenwood Industrial Park and the Poole Cove Marine Industrial Park respectively.. The Board has also become the leader in developing the local tourism industry and presently we are developing tour packages for visitors visiting the region.”
There is presently research being performed on potential cranberry growing sites in the region to taking the lead in an Aquaculture Development Master Plan for the region and continuously advising and doing research for private industries that are interested in setting up shop in the Coast of Bays.
This group have been working very closely with the Joint Mayors Committee in the Region, attends meetings and does correspondence follow-ups from these meetings.
“The Board was very much involved in the two TIOW’s for Hr. Breton and the recent approval of the TIOW for Hermitage. We are also very involved in addressing the waste management challenges in the region, plus there are dozens of requests weekly going into the office for information from tourists, municipalities, government departments and private enterprises looking for information on the region,” said Stewart. “These are just a few of the current files we are working on and over the pass 15 plus years we have helped to bring millions and millions of dollars to the communities within the Coast of Bays.”
“My concern is what will happen when this service is terminated? How will communities especially smaller communities coup with the challenges of economic development without the support provided by the Board. Will we lose sight of the Regional Vision? Will we once again move backward instead of forward? Will the chain that united all of us, once broken cause a drifting –to what future?”
Stewart personally believes that the lost of the Coast of Bays Board will affect every person and community in the region over the long term.
The Federal Government stated that the job cuts are part of departments-wide reviews and by trying to cut the costs and reduce the budget, they are not seeing how damaging this will be for our economy.
“I am certainly very dismayed that the federal government has cut 75 percent of the funding from these very valuable, community based volunteer organizations, which serve a vital role in strategic planning and partnership building,” stated MHA Tracey Perry. “In the case of the Coast of Bays Corporation, the staff and directors are exceptional, with skill sets and knowledge second to none.”
The Conservatives began the funding reductions to ACOA in the 2010 review and at that time there was 32,000,000 cut over a three year period and now in the budget there is an additional 17.9 million dollar cut.
In 2006 the Prime Minister promised that ACOA’s budget will be maintained; he wins a majority government and then turns around and cuts ACOA’s budget by $50 million dollars.
Member of Parliament for Random-Burin-St. George’s, Ms Judy Foote stated that she doesn’t understand how they can possibly cut the ACOA funding to the extent that they have and by doing so it clearly shows that they have no concern for the rural areas particularly of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The rural communities will see out migration; they are cutting the funding to ACOA which means actually cutting the funding to the Regional Economic Development Boards that would mean investments to the rural communities. If there is no investment, then there are no jobs being created.”
The Federal Governments states that the funding that ACOA has provided to regional economic development organizations will instead be invested directly in small- and medium-sized businesses and communities in support of initiatives that deliver economic growth and job creation throughout the region.
A lot of broken promises have been made to Newfoundland and Labrador, and the loss of jobs is just not justified or acceptable.