Wilson not saying where facade program money went
Victoria County's Director of Tourism claims businesses must give their permission to make grant info public
A mystery surrounds who received funding from the Cabot Trail Facade Program.
In 2016, the federal government, Victoria and Inverness Counties, and local businesses committed $1.8 million to boosting tourism along the trail by installing new signs, renovating storefronts and clearing trees to open views across the mountains.
But if Tom Wilson, Director of Recreation & Tourism for Victoria County, knows where the money went, he isn’t saying.
“We will require business owners’ permission to release info on amounts approved,” Wilson said Friday, after The Victoria Standard repeated a request for the names of people who were awarded grants under the program.
“The majority of the businesses are first-timers with some second-timers,” Wilson said. “Second-timers are from Phase 1 of the Cabot Trail Façade program or from previous facade programs in Cheticamp and Baddeck.”
Approximately 50 businesses received funding to spruce up the road-facing side of their businesses, Wilson said.
“We anticipate most of these facades will be completed before the 2018 tourist season.”
The Victoria Standard first asked for an update on the project September 1, then
the project September 1, then asked for the list of locations October 2.
Friday, October 6, Wilson sent a lengthy response describing the project guidelines, but no names of those who got funding.
Wilson confirmed that the businesses could have received up to 50 percent funding for each project, to a maximum of $20,000.
“Past facade programs have seen an increase in customers to their businesses and revenues have increased by 10-15 percent on average,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wilson wasn’t saying which spots along the trail were cleared by James Eldridge Property Services Inc., which won the tender to cut brush and trees at 43 locations.
“The Viewscapes locations are GPS coordinates. I don't have those now as I am away from the office,” Wilson said October 6.
As for the new signs, “The design has not been approved by all the partners yet but we will release it once approved,” Wilson said.
That part of the project includes refacing four existing signs on the Trans Canada Highway and putting up two new signs, one just past the causeway on the Cape Breton side, and another on the Ceilidh Trail.
The program was funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Inverness and Victoria counties agreed to add $20,000 each. Cabot Trail businesses were to provide $675,000.