Ottawa cutting budget to regional development agency
AMHERST – The Cumberland Regional Development Authority is about to lose a funding partner.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has notified the province’s regional economic development groups, including Cumberland County’s, that their core funding will expire next May.
“The decision to withdraw federal core funding from these organizations is about reducing duplication and focusing ACOA’s efforts and strategies on providing businesses across Atlantic Canada with the tools and resources they need to create jobs and growth in our communities,” Bernard Valcourt, the minister responsible for ACOA, said in a letter to the development authorities.
The Cumberland RDA’s core funding amounts to about $700,000 annually, of which $169,000 comes from ACOA. The remaining funding comes from the province, the county’s five municipalities and other partners.
The minister said money previously provided to the development authorities will instead be invested directly in small and medium-sized communities in support of initiatives that deliver economic growth and job creation.
Reached for comment, Cumberland Regional Development Authority executive director Rhonda Kelly said she’s confident a new model will be developed that better serves the community.
“This makes good sense and builds on some of the work we have already done as an organization with our new management structure and HR plan,” Kelly said. “We are very optimistic that we will come out of this with a much stronger and efficient model. We’re very confident in the Nova Scotia model and see this as a tremendous opportunity for our organization.”
Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong said he has enjoyed a tremendous working relationship with the RDAs in the riding and expects that continue, but suggests a new structure is required to make the best use of the funding.
“We need to come up with a new structure that is more efficient and better protects the amount of money that goes to small and medium-sized businesses,” Armstrong said. “We need to find a better way of providing economic development and more equal access across the region. It has to be more uniform.”
Valcourt said working directly with local community and business leaders will allow the federal government to better address the unique needs of the community.
“Atlantic entrepreneurs need to spend less time navigating through various organizations and more time pursuing trade opportunities, developing competitive technologies, diversifying their products and services, and acquiring the tools and skills to realize productivity gains,” Valcourt said.
While core funding is being ended, the development authorities will still be eligible for project funding from ACOA, as long as the projects are aligned with the agency’s priorities and have a clear beginning and end date.
ACOA, the minister said, will also be working with the provincial and municipal governments to explore alternate, more effective models for working together.
The move comes after the federal government announced plans to cut $17.9 million from ACOA in the last federal budget.