AMHERST – The head of Cumberland County’s development agency is welcoming an independent review of the regional development authority model announced last week by the province.
“We think this is an excellent opportunity to further enhance a model that is recognized nationwide because of its multi-level partnership, in particular the municipal partnership that has been key to Cumberland County,” Cumberland Regional Development Authority executive director Rhonda Kelly said. “We have a progressive group of municipal units whose support has enabled numerous community and business initiatives in this county over the last 17 years.”
The panel - which includes Perennia CEO and former CORDA executive director Jo Ann Fewer (who will chair), Cape Breton Partnership executive director Keith MacDonald, retired business owner Bob MacEachern of Port Hawkesbury and University of St. Anne president Allister Surette – will report back to the province with recommendations on the best approach for helping to create jobs, grow the economy and building stronger and sustainable communities.
Economic and Rural Development Minister Percy Paris said the review will make sure the best model is in place to support economic growth across the province.
The review is being done in partnership with municipalities, as an important partner in supporting economic development. The panel will consult with key groups, including municipalities, the federal government, community and business leaders and regional development authorities.
“Investments in economic development are necessary in all regions so that families can stay together in their communities,” the minister said.
A steering committee made up of representatives of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the provincial government will support the panel.
The review comes after the federal government announced it would be ending its funding for regional development authorities in May 2013. The authorities are presently funded by Ottawa, the province and municipalities. Partners each provide $2.1 million in operating funding.
The present model has been in place for nearly 20 years.
When the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announced in May it is cutting federal funding, MP Scott Armstrong said he could see there being fewer development authorities in the province.
Kelly said the authorities are no different than business and municipal units in that they are always looking for efficiencies.
“You always look for opportunities for efficiency and a good example of that is the newcomer navigator program that’s run provincially through the RDA system. In Cumberland County, we partner with Colchester and Pictou to deliver that service,” Kelly said. “We have to look at the opportunities to enhance, to become more efficient and to better serve rural communities in Nova Scotia.”