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

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - ANNE FARRIES

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.

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