McNeil pledges to study NSCC move
Analysis would address costs, spinoffs and economics
A re-elected Liberal provincial government would complete a study into the feasibility of moving the Nova Scotia Community College’s Marconi campus downtown, Stephen McNeil says.
McNeil made the statement during a luncheon speech Wednesday to the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce.
“That’s an important piece of public infrastructure, but what if we look at that as more than just an educational training institution, it’s an economic driver,” he said. “So if we move that to the downtown, think about what we’re trying to do, what you’re trying to do around tourists … you want them off the boat, you want them walking around. Well, imagine moving our campus downtown and bringing those students downtown, imagine the vibrance that will happen on your streets.”
A feasibility study would address questions including costs, potential economic spinoffs and whether the project would make economic sense, McNeil said in an interview.
“I have raised this issue at various levels, I’ve raised it in the community, I’ve raised it with our partners … I just think the right place for it is a downtown where we’re maximizing our institution and at the same time getting economic spinoff from it,” McNeil said.
Two years ago, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke approached the province about a downtown Sydney development that would house the NSCC Marconi campus, the provincial building, a new library and other uses.
The NSCC’s Marconi campus is currently located on the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway next to Cape Breton University. The NSCC leases the Marconi campus building from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
Critics have questioned the wisdom of possibly pursuing that project when there are other great infrastructure needs in the region and not enough dollars to go around.
If the Liberals are re-elected, the study would come early in its second mandate, McNeil said.
“Then we’ll start looking at what does that look like, if it makes sense then we’ll start looking for dollars to make that happen,” he said.
Fred Tilley, principal of the Marconi campus, was in attendance at the luncheon and said he found McNeil’s comments “exciting.” He described the potential project as strictly being at the discussion level currently.
“Anything that we can do as a college to help build the economy and the quality of life in Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, we’re all for it,” Tilley said in an interview. “We’re hopeful and hopefully things will move forward.”
A new location could potentially allow the college to refresh itself and expand its offerings, he said, keeping Cape Bretoners at home as they pursue training rather than being forced to leave the island.
The Liberals have come under heavy fire during the campaign — not only from their political foes but from doctors themselves — for the current state of the health-care system and worsening physician shortages in Cape Breton.
Doctors have also complained that, as the Liberals moved to centralize administration with a single provincial health authority, the local voice has been lost from the system.
McNeil said the province had been spending too much on administration and not enough on front-line care.
“I’ve yet to find anywhere where my voice has ever been found in too much administration,” McNeil said.
He said his party has also committed to additional residency seats and a hospice as part of its plan to improve health care.
Nova Scotians go to the polls Tuesday.
Liberal Party Leader Stephen McNeil spoke to reporters at a Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney on Wednesday.