NORTHPORT, N.S. – Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin feels the future of Northport could be at stake if the federal government moves ahead with divesting itself of the community’s wharf.
Smith-McCrossin said federal officials informed the community last year that it would he divesting the wharf and removing all federal responsibilities because of declining use.
To her, it is a shameful reaction and shows a glaring lack of commitment to rural economic development.
“The future viability of this community matters to me and matters to the people of Cumberland North,” Smith-McCrossin said. “Removing this wharf will all but put the final nail in the coffin of the fishing industry in Northport and will directly impact the potential economy of this area.”
The MLA said the federal government completed regular maintenance of the wharf but has not invested in dredging which has meant fewer boats can use it. In late 2018, former MP Scott Brison announced a $42-million-dollar investment for small craft harbour improvement.
None of this money went to the community of Northport.
“It’s pretty shameful to know that all that money came to this province and not a cent went to the Northport wharf,” she said. “This is a classic chicken and the egg problem where no dredging means fewer boats and fewer boats means less demand and less demand means the federal government doesn’t see the need to do the work.”
Smith-McCrossin said the federal government needs to start investing in rural communities like Northport.
“Northport has enormous potential to contribute to Nova Scotia’s proud fishing industry,” Smith-McCrossin said. “I am calling on the federal government to support Northport and give them a fighting chance to be open for business.”
The area’s member of parliament, Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey, said the federal government does plan to divest itself of the wharf, but said there’s a local group prepared to take it over.
“There is interest in the community in taking it over, I’ve passed that on to the minister and the minister has acknowledged that. There will be a negotiation and discussion on how it can be divested and turned into a much more vibrant facility,” Casey said in response to Smith-McCrossin. “It’s going through the process.”
Casey said the local group has met with officials from Fisheries and Oceans and he said there are federal resources available for the local community to make it a more active and productive port than it is now.
“There’s a process that has to be gone through and it can take some time, but it’s under way,” he said. “At the end, it will be much better than it ever has been.”