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Can’t we just get along with each other?

['Did You Know That with Alan Walter']
['Did You Know That with Alan Walter']

Did You Know with Alan Walter

It seems like a day doesn’t go by in our part of the world without an attack being levelled by one group on another, usually based on political grounds, and generally reflecting a reluctance to “get along” with others having different points of view.

Take for example the recent assault by Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People's Party of Canada, who thinks ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, should be axed as befits an example of corporate welfare that is not working.

ACOA successfully works to create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive, also by working with communities to develop and diversify local economies, and by championing the strengths of Atlantic Canada. Our own ACOA office in Amherst provides expert financial assistance and business advice to local businesses in many sectors, including manufacturing & processing, tourism, agriculture and aquaculture, and a range of technology-based industries.

The hypocrisy of Maxime Bernier’s attack is actually quite comical, given that his home province qualifies as the country’s largest “have-not” province, with annual transfer payments of some $13 billion from other provinces. I guess it’s OK if the “welfare” payments are coming from elsewhere!

And while our two elected MLAs work hard to do their best for our county, the strong Liberal majority government plays hardball with its opposition and has no reason to satisfy Cumberland County’s needs, unless they happen to fit in with their own priorities, a special case of “getting along” I suppose.

Back in July of last year, the province announced a $6-million infrastructure program to enhance the visitor experience at what it calls our iconic tourism sites. While that program has a three-year duration, there were no plans for investments in our county - not one cent - even though tourism has long been identified as a key driver of economic growth for the county.

Undaunted, the towns of Amherst and Oxford, along with the municipality of Cumberland County, have been “getting along” with each other in the joint development of a tourism strategic plan for the region. In lively committee meetings it has made great progress in identifying our target visitor profiles, and a frank assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, along with the opportunities and potential threats we see in our future. This work has led to the development of a list of key goals and objectives, against which we can measure our future efforts.

In the meantime, there seems to be no end of funds to support our premier’s “legacy” project, the construction of a new track-and-field facility in his Bridgetown constituency.

For the $3.5-million project in Bridgetown the province is providing $2.3 million, more than double the federal share and $1 million more than is usually provided in similar cost-sharing arrangements. But a spokesperson for the premier explained, "There was some money left in the small communities fund”!

Meanwhile, the final resolution of the Oxford sink hole saga could use some financial “getting along” to complete the necessary studies needed to determine a cure for the sink hole. Oxford mayor Trish Stewart says that 50 per cent of the funding has been committed by Municipal Affairs and she’s hoping the other half will come from Lands and Forests. This is many months after a fifty-foot tree disappeared from sight in the sink hole located within town limits.

On another front, the local health care debacle cries out for some serious “getting along” to support a joint community effort to attract sorely needed physicians and specialists to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.

A partnership of Amherst Mayor David Kogon and Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart has already seen the recruitment of several physicians and specialists – some of whom have started work at the Amherst hospital.

There is however the small matter of the modest incidental expenses, some $10,000, including those incurred by the mayors travelling to recruitment fairs out of the province. Mayor Kogon would like to see the province cough up some financial support to cover these recruiting efforts.

“Beyond what is spent at the provincial level, there has to be some money available to local communities to push their community,” Kogon said. “I’ve sent a letter to Minister Delorey explaining that point. Amherst agreed to put in $10,000 because it was so urgent and had to be done, but health care is not a municipal issue; it’s a provincial one. While we’re willing to put the time and effort into recruiting, it’s not our responsibility to spend municipal dollars.”

Rather than have our community “stiffed” for such a trifle, surely this is an instance where another dose of “getting along” would be called for.

Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at alanwalter@eastlink.ca.

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