BCB fund­ing de­bated

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

The Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s fu­ture ap­proach to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts came un­der de­bate as coun­cil­lors de­bated whether to con­tinue to fund Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton dur­ing its bud­get ses­sion this week.

The 2017-18 CBRM op­er­at­ing bud­get pro­posal in­cluded al­most $288,000 in mu­nic­i­pal fund­ing for Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton, which last year coun­cil des­ig­nated as the CBRM’s busi­ness de­vel­op­ment en­tity. The bud­get sum­mary noted that the or­ga­ni­za­tion is also seek­ing al­most $224,000 in fund­ing from the prov­ince as well as fund­ing from the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties agency to sup­port its small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment cen­tre.

CBRM CAO Michael Mer­ritt said for the cur­rent fis­cal year, the prov­ince has funded Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton and the pro­posal is in to the prov­ince to con­tinue that for the com­ing year. In re­sponse, the group’s chair Parker Rud­der­ham told coun­cil that he has re­ceived a com­mit­ment from Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Zach Churchill con­firm­ing the prov­ince’s fund­ing.

“We do not have any of their money from ACOA, it is still un­der re­view at this late stage of the game,” Mer­ritt said. “I have been in con­stant con­tact with ACOA, lo­cal, Hal­i­fax, re­cently to the pres­i­dent of ACOA to ask why it’s been held up. It has not been ac­cepted nor has it been not ac­cepted at this point in time.”

Mer­ritt said the amount the CBRM is putting into eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment prob­a­bly isn’t suf­fi­cient but he be­lieves its in­vest­ment is “pru­dent.”

Dist. 2 Coun. Ear­lene MacMullin ques­tioned whether the CBRM’s fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton is, as with other com­mu­nity groups, con­tin­gent on it suc­cess­fully lev­er­ag­ing funds from other sources. Mer­ritt said that is not the case.

Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall said that left her, “a lit­tle bit gob­s­macked.”

“We are very dili­gent with our com­mu­nity groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions in say­ing, ‘yes, we will sup­port you but you have to prove that you are go­ing to get con­fir­ma­tion of fund­ing from var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment,’” she said.

“I know we need eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment here but the op­tics of this is hor­ri­ble in the pub­lic. This is tax­payer money, we can’t just make up rules for one or­ga­ni­za­tion over an­other.”

Mayor Ce­cil Clarke said the dif­fer­ence be­tween it and other groups is that Des­ti­na­tion Cape Bre­ton is the only one that has been rec­og­nized as the CBRM’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment en­tity.

John Phalen, a for­mer CBRM pub­lic works man­ager, re­cently be­came eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment man­ager with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. McDougall sug­gested do­ing more eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects in-house, rather than us­ing an out­side or­ga­ni­za­tion, adding she doubts that this late in the fis­cal year the ACOA money is forth­com­ing.

Coun­cil has talked about set­ting up an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee. Mer­ritt said the com­ing year would prob­a­bly be a suit­able time to carry out a re­view “to see if you want to re­pro­file mon­eys in-house, specif­i­cally to John Phalen and his ini­tia­tives or to con­tinue on with Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton and such.”

A mo­tion by McDougall to de­fer the fund­ing for Busi­ness Cape Bre­ton was ul­ti­mately de­feated. The group’s al­lo­ca­tion was ap­proved as part of the over­all op­er­at­ing bud­get pack­age.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion bud­get also in­cluded a $9,500 in­crease in travel due to an in­crease in ac­tiv­ity for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment to be un­der­taken by Phalen.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion bud­get also in­cluded a $80,000 al­lo­ca­tion to Des­ti­na­tion Cape Bre­ton.

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