CBRM coun­cil to tackle eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment

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

Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment has never been the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment but it’s fallen into its lap be­cause there’s no one else left to do it.

That was the sen­ti­ment of at least one mem­ber of coun­cil Mon­day as the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil’s gen­eral com­mit­tee dis­cussed the process of how it is about to be­gin look­ing at the issue of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and re­lated plan­ning is­sues.

Dist. 10 Coun. Dar­ren Bruckschwaiger sug­gested it has now be­come the do­main of coun­cil by de­fault.

“We own it, be­cause there’s no­body left here do­ing any­thing,” he said. “The only of­fice we had was taken out of Syd­ney.

“We have to do more for our­selves and, yes, we’ve got to meet more, be­cause there’s no­body else go­ing to come to help us … that’s the bot­tom line.”

Hand-in-hand as part of the discussion will be the first re­view of the CBRM’s plan­ning strat­egy and land use by­law since they came into ef­fect 13 years ago.

In a re­gion that is plagued by high un­em­ploy­ment and high rates of child poverty, coun­cil now in­tends to hold stand­alone gen­eral com­mit­tee meet­ings deal­ing with eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and the plan­ning strat­egy re­view on the first Wed­nes­day of each month. The discussion could also spill into other gen­eral com­mit­tee ses­sions, when sched­ul­ing al­lows, as well as other brief­ings and work­shops.

“If you’re go­ing to con­sider how do we move for­ward to be a leader in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, what was our role to play, so we’ll go through the heavy lift­ing process, and it’s rather weighty go­ing through pol­icy doc­u­ments that are very lengthy, and an­a­lyz­ing that and get­ting feed­back from business and com­mu­nity so that we can make im­prove­ments,” Mayor Ce­cil Clarke said.

There is the be­lief in some quar­ters that mu­nic­i­pal poli­cies are de­lay­ing some de­vel­op­ment, he said.

Un­der the Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Act, there are no pro­vi­sions in­volv­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, Clarke said, but the CBRM has been given no choice but to be at the front end of it.

Sev­eral coun­cil­lors said they want to see bod­ies such as Des­ti­na­tion Cape Bre­ton, In­no­va­corp, Business Cape Bre­ton, the Cape Bre­ton Part­ner­ship and oth­ers ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee and dis­cuss their strate­gies for the CBRM. There was also talk of bring­ing to­gether all of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties on the is­land for a discussion, some­thing Clarke said they are over­due for, given last fall’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

Dist. 8 Coun. Amanda McDougall added she would like to see the non-profit sec­tor in­cluded in the con­ver­sa­tion.

Bruckschwaiger said they could also learn from good news sto­ries such as Pro­to­case’s steady growth as a sig­nif­i­cant em­ployer in the re­gion.

“This is huge in our mu­nic­i­pal­ity … let’s talk about this stuff, these are the types of peo­ple who have got to be brought in to coun­cil for discussion, they’re the ones who are the movers and the shakers, they’re the ones that are cre­at­ing jobs. What else can we do to help you do more?” Bruckschwaiger said.

Clarke noted the City of Moncton also once found it­self at a sim­i­lar cross­roads and is now in a po­si­tion where it spends more than $1 mil­lion an­nu­ally on an arts and cul­ture strat­egy and has eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment spend­ing of about $7 mil­lion.

Dist. 6 Coun. Ray Paruch said he wel­comes the re­view of plan­ning and land use is­sues but called the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment discussion “an ex­er­cise in academia,” say­ing he’s seen it many times be­fore in his years on coun­cil.

“I like what I heard on the plan­ning sec­tion, it makes sense that we’ll mod­ify and we’ll change plans in or­der to ac­com­mo­date what the pub­lic doesn’t like … but what I see here on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, we’ve been down that road 10 times al­ready,” he said. “I’ve seen all kinds of plans, I’ve got maybe 20 of them home.”

In­stead, Paruch said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity needs to shakes things up and think out­side the box.

“We’ve got to sit down in a work­shop at­mos­phere and we’ve got to plot a new strat­egy to go in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion in or­der to achieve suc­cess,” he said, adding the CBRM’s role should be to act as an ad­vo­cate and bring peo­ple to­gether.

The mayor will also write to the lead­ers of the prov­ince’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties invit­ing them to ap­pear be­fore coun­cil and dis­cuss how their plat­forms would af­fect the CBRM.

Clarke

Bruckschwaiger

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