Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Mr. Michel Samson (Chairman)
Mr. Brooke Taylor
Mr. William Dooks
Ms. Judy Streatch
Mr. Howard Epstein
Mr. Charles Parker
Ms. Marilyn More
Mr. Wayne Gaudet
Mr. Harold Theriault
[Mr. Ronald Chisholm replaced Ms. Judy Streatch.]
[Mr. Jerry Pye replaced Mr. Howard Epstein.]
[Ms. Joan Massey replaced Ms. Marilyn More.]
[Mr. Stephen McNeil replaced Mr. Harold Theriault]
Mrs. Darlene Henry
Legislative Committee Clerk
Guysborough Regional Development Authority
Mr. Dan Gillis
Mr. Gordon MacDonald
Special Projects Manager
Warden Lloyd Hines
Municipality of the District of Guysborough
Vice-Chairman - GCRDA
Warden David Clarke
Municipality of the District of Guysborough
Board Member - GCRDA
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2005
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Michel Samson
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to call this meeting of the Standing Committee on Economic Development to order. This morning we have representatives from the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority, who will be making a presentation to us.
As per our normal course of action with this committee, we invite our presenters to make a presentation and following that I'm sure our committee members will have some questions or comments that they'll want to make in regard to that presentation. Can we first have the committee members introduce themselves and then we can have our presenters introduce themselves.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. LLOYD HINES: Good morning, my name is Lloyd Hines, Vice-Chairman of the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority and Warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. I will ask our group to introduce themselves.
MR. GORDON MACDONALD: Gordon MacDonald, Special Projects Manager for the Petroleum Office of the Guysborough County RDA.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: Good morning, David Clarke, Warden for St. Mary's Municipality and I sit as a board member on the Guysborough County RDA.
MR. DAN GILLIS: I'm Dan Gillis, Executive Director of the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Mr. Chairman, committee members, thank you all very much for agreeing to have us come to speak with you today, we really appreciate that opportunity. You see behind me here what our agenda would be, the introduction. We've kind of accomplished that part of it.
We are here to talk to you about a review that was commissioned by the Guysborough County Regional Development Authority and its partners, to look at the benchmark, economic situation throughout the county. The information that Dan will be presenting shortly will give you an understanding of the conditions that are in Guysborough County presently, within the last year. It's not all that pretty, so we're here to share that with you and to tell you what we're doing - when I say "we" I mean the regional development authority and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough - and then some suggestions we see that our partner, the provincial government, can do to help our citizens. We will then look forward to a good dialogue about where we are. With that, Dan, I would ask you to do the presentation.
MR. DAN GILLIS: We had three objectives in the study that was commissioned. The first one was to document the current state of Guysborough County's economy. The next was to identify and interview a representative cross-section of existing businesses, as well as institutions within the county from all four municipal units, the two Towns of Canso and Mulgrave and the Districts of Guysborough and St. Mary's. As well we wanted to do some projections on the impact that the identified economic trends will have on the future of Guysborough County.
Some of the trends that they discovered were a decline of 23 per cent from 1981 levels of 12,752 to 2,000 - this is the census level. The trend indicates the further decline to the year 2016 down to 6,600, almost a 50 per cent decline in that period. The big point is that our 19 to 44 age group are leaving the county, and we lead all of Nova Scotia in the relative size of out-migration in that period. This chart outlines the various age groups and you see the big decline in the ages 25 to 44 and the 15 to 24 group, whereas the older ages are increasing. Here we have the net migration of various counties as well as the province, highlighting Guysborough County, which is by far the largest, unfortunately.
Our unemployment rate has risen from 13.4 per cent in 1981 to 22.9 per cent in 2001, more than double the provincial average. It's kind of difficult given our size to figure out what the current unemployment rate is because of the way it is calculated and the small sample group in Guysborough County. There is another problem, I think, we have with this rate is that it is understated because of the low participation rate in the labour market, and I'll mention that in a second.
This labour force has declined 16 per cent between 1986 and 2001, and the participation rate is well below the provincial average. This rate signifies that there are a number of people in the county who have just given up on becoming part of the labour force, so they're not counted in the statistics when you are calculating the unemployment rate.
You see in this slide here that in 2001 it's 22.9 per cent, but if you add in the people who aren't included in that, who aren't looking for work, who are unemployed, it's more like 33 per cent which would be three times the provincial average.
Employment, the strongest sectors were traditionally in the fishery and fish processing, as well as the forestry. In the fish processing sector especially, there is 23 per cent less employment than in 1986. This illustrates the various industries and most of them show a decline or a levelling out, with the one exception being the health and social services sectors that take care of all the older folks who are there now.
This shows our labour force projected beyond 2001 to 2011 and shows the total labour force decreasing, the total employed, and the total unemployed. While those both are declining the total number of people unemployed is still remaining the same, so that's increasing the rate.
Household incomes, steadily below the provincial average and 30 per cent of those incomes are from government transfers. So this shows the Guysborough County versus Nova Scotia in 1996 and 2001. The difference in 1996 was $9,300 per year and in 2001 it's $10,351 so the gap is widening.
Education, our student enrolment, down 57 per cent since 1981. In 1981 there were 18 schools and there are presently five schools. This graph shows here is the number of schools and the dark line is the student figure. They are projecting in 2010 to go from the 1970 figure of 3,500 to about 1,000 in 2010, if things continue as they are with current trends.
Our population, as you can see, the highest level of schooling - and I think this is more a reflection of who stays in Guysborough County, it's not so much a reflection of the grade attained. I think about 75 per cent of the people who out-migrate are university educated. Less than Grade 10 we're probably twice the Nova Scotia average whereas university level is one-third. I believe that's more a result of out-migration.
Look at the economic sectors, the study identified that the fishery is stable, no growth expected there, that's due to the inshore fishery changing from the groundfish to shellfish mainly, so the value of the catch has remained steady and that sector, the harvesters are probably doing as well or better than they have in quite some time. However the fish
processing sector has weakened, all the fish plants have closed in the area, especially the large one in Canso, it's only open sporadically, its production is a few weeks of the year in shellfish. This year it has shown a bit of an improvement with herring roe for a period, and they're looking at harvesting mackerel in the near future.
Offshore oil and gas services, the sector is small. The initial construction phase gave the area quite a boost, but the actual people working there was not too bad at the beginning, but those jobs have declined, a lot of them have migrated to Halifax that really should have stayed in the county.
Poised for increased activity, the Keltic Project, if that goes ahead, the LNG terminal and the petrochemical facilities could make a difference in the future.
As part of the study they consulted with businesses and asked them what the trends were, what they saw for the future and looked at investment. As for trends, they see basically a steady or slight decline. The only bright light for a number of them is that many of their competitors have closed or moved away, so they increased their market share. A lot of work has transferred from full time to part time.
Challenges, they look at as recruiting and retaining young employees and the out-migration of youth and young families. Some of the opportunities that they identified were wind energy, LNG, petrochemicals, and port development.
On the investment side with regard to business, what they're willing to increase their investment in the area, the trends were only to increase their investment to increase efficiency or capitalize on the closure of their competitors' businesses. There were a few businesses that looked at projected future investment and mainly they are around the Strait area and as well, the investment is to save on labour. There has been quite a change in the forestry industry to go from people carrying chainsaws to highly mechanized machinery.
Challenges, the trend toward spending in larger markets decreased the volume of business. This is something that all rural areas are experiencing and the declining local markets.
Opportunities they identified for investment were in tourism, fishing, shipping, offshore gas exploration, fabrication, wind power generation, and petrochemical, again.
I guess Gordon's going to take over now and sort of summarize that.
MR. GORDON MACDONALD: As you can see in the data that you've been provided, the picture that our report paints is not a very bright picture, and for us, what it has pointed out clearly is that we're not facing a future crisis, we are in a crisis situation now.
The other side of that though for us, and really what we wanted to focus on here today is on the opportunity side, and we're going to get into that later in our presentation as well.
I want to talk first in summary, to summarize some of the findings of the study, the population trends, and that's what this is all about, it's about losing people. We're losing people because of lack of employment opportunities, so we've had a 23 per cent decline from the 1981 levels of 12,752 people, to 2001 where we have 9,825. Using those existing trends and tracking them over the past 20 years and projecting them forward 10 years to 2016, it indicates if there's not something significant that comes along to change those trends, some significant development, this is what we're looking at, a population of 6,600 by 2016.
As Dan mentioned, it's the people that drive the economy who are leaving, the people in the 19 to 44 year old age group who have kids in school and really are the people who consume the goods in your economy and earn the income. Those are the people we are losing at an alarming rate. So it's one of the things you really don't want to lead Nova Scotia in, but we do in terms of out-migration, and have over the past number of years.
The labour force has declined primarily as a result of the decline in the fishery and forestry. Those are still very important sectors and probably the most important sectors of our economy, they just don't employ the people they used to. The participation rate is well below the provincial average, as Dan mentioned, and the unemployment stats don't really paint the real picture. There are a lot of people who aren't reflected in that because they've given up looking for work.
The unemployment rate has risen from 13.4 per cent to 22.9 per cent. Dan has touched on part of that. We're lumped in with the northern region which takes in Pictou County, Antigonish County, so it's hard to get good accurate information in terms of the real unemployment rate. So it understates the true unemployment rate because of the low participation rate, as well. When you look at the employment stats, 23 per cent less people are employed today compared to back in 1986.
Fishery and forestry still, as I mentioned, are probably the most important parts of the economy and parts of both are doing well, it's just with the change in the mechanization of those industries, they don't employ the people who have the children, occupy the schools, and drive the economy.
Income levels are way below the provincial average, as Dan touched on and 30 per cent of the income comes now from government transfers. As that decline continues I expect that rate will steadily climb, as well.
The education levels, Dan has already touched on that. In terms of the student enrolment, it's down 57 per cent from 1981, the numbers are pretty stark. When you look back to 1971, we had about 3,500 people in the school system and projecting by 2016,
around 1,000 - a big change. With the amalgamation of schools, that has declined, and obviously as our numbers continue to fall there's a high likelihood that there will be further moves in that area as well.
The economic sectors. The fish processing sector is certainly weakened and no one really expects, I don't think, that there is going to be a recovery that will lead to the employment levels that we saw in years past in the fishery, particularly on the processing side. Those are the jobs really that used to drive a lot of the coastal communities in Nova Scotia, the processing jobs, and they're simply not there today.
The offshore oil and gas sector is still relatively small and there hasn't been a lot of activity there since the Sable project. We're still certainly hopeful that Deep Panuke will go. I think, hopefully next year there is a little more activity in the offshore and looking at the LNG side, three or four years ago nobody was talking about LNG or CNG, and there is certainly a lot of potential in those areas now. At least we have some infrastructure there now that will service those developments as well.
So I'll turn it over to Warden Hines and he'll take us through what we really want to talk about, I guess, which is what we're doing. We think there is a lot of opportunity and we want to focus today mainly on what we're doing and what can be done in partnership with the province as well.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Thank you, Gordon. Now we want to talk about what we are doing. We're trying not to fiddle while Rome burns. If you look at that you might think that there has been a lot of fiddling going on, it seems, but we do have some concrete plans within the buttons that have fallen to us, as municipal people, to push, without trying to boil the ocean and we can't do that, so we try to focus on the things that are important to the local community.
We are going to just go through what our activities have been in Goldboro. Goldboro, as you may be aware, is the landfall site for the Sable Offshore Energy Project and also the beginning point for the main transmission line - Maritimes Northeast transmission line - to go 1,600 kilometres into Dracut, Massachusetts, which hits the North American Natural Gas Pipeline Grid. Sometimes we refer to it jokingly as Goldboro, U.S.A., because that's sort of the start of where it's at and quite honestly, for the most part, that's where the gas has been going for some number of years.
At Goldboro we have seen for some time that there is an opportunity there to exploit the fact that this is a major industrial investment. The total investment for the Sable project was around $3 billion, $1.5 billion for the pipeline and the rest between the onshore and offshore. I guess that Goldboro has probably $0.5 billion invested there. This is a schematic of the industrial area there. What we have been doing, this is the entire park which we just went through a rezoning situation to expand the zone and create an M-3 marine zone there,
which would enable the advent of industries that are able to use a marine environment, such as LNG, such as petrochemical, and others. We didn't have that in the area and when Sable went in they had a single mind, the zoning was a specific piece that was set back, it was landlocked. We found that bringing that to the market in terms of a global industrial opportunity was weak because we didn't have that access to the marine.
What we have done there - and I can say that now since the Board of Public Utilities made an utterance this week and dismissed the two appeals that had been outstanding against our zoning plans - we went back and rejigged the strategy there. At this point in time I can say that this is in place. The only possibility would be an appeal to the Supreme Court by the appellants and that could happen, we're not sure about that.
At this point in time, this is now the situation on the ground at Goldboro. The lower part here, the blue, of course, is the water. The municipality has been actively involved in a land assembly of those properties right on the water here. This is the gas plant here, these are the properties here. We have $2 million invested in, ourselves, there currently. We have gone in there and picked up 38 of the 42 private properties that we have bought from the owners. We're quite intent something is going to happen there and we're using our resources to help it happen.
The industrial zoning, that entire area there is 8,000 acres of industrially zoned property. Originally I think we had about 1,500 acres so when we went back this time we thought we'd make it big enough so we wouldn't have to go back to the community again. In that area - for the harbour, here - we also conducted a marine terminal study a couple of years ago with one of the consultants, O'Halloran's I think did it for us. It identified the suitability of the harbour and the opportunities for marine development there. We were very pleased to discover that there is good draft there and it is a very viable harbour. It has already been conditioned because that is near the area of the landfall for the sub-sea pipeline that comes from Sable Island.
Additionally, we also conducted a study on providing a utility corridor from the Trans-Canada Highway near Antigonish, overland, through the municipality and actually to the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, to serve this from a road-rail, gas access consideration. Gordon, do you remember what we spent on that particular study?
MR. GORDON MACDONALD: Yes, it was around $80,000.
MR. LLOYD HINES: To try to flesh out what it is we're proposing here because in this environment that we're in, you just can't come in and say, you guys, listen, this is going to work. You have to have the documentation, you have to do the legwork and to do that, you have to spend the money. To spend the money, you have to have partners, and I want to keep
talking about that all the way through here because we've had good partnerships as we have moved through this process, they could be stronger, we're hoping to enhance that here today, and that is our position too, you can't do these things alone.
If you think about the municipality, Goldboro is at the far western reaches of the municipal boundary, near the border with our good neighbour, St. Mary's. On the other side of the municipality are our good neighbours from Richmond County, as a matter of fact, on the Strait of Canso.
Back in the 1970s, there was a major move to create an industrial opportunity at the Strait of Canso, on the mainland side, in Guysborough Municipality. You might recall a gentleman by the name of Shaheen who was going to build a refinery there years ago. So the province did a tremendous amount of work at that time in terms of land assembly and they created a 15,000 acre, state-of-the-art industrial park, which is owned by the province. It has been sitting there dormant, essentially, for that period of time. They also built a huge dam at that time, I think the price tag in the early 1970s was $30 million and that is sitting there as an industrial water supply.
Again, the large brown area is the existing industrial park. There is the water out here, but there was no marine access, it's completely landlocked, and, of course, that's the Strait of Canso. On the other side is the new Anadarko proposal in Richmond County, Nova Scotia Power's generating station, Stora, Georgia Pacific, they're just 1.6 kilometres across the harbour on the Cape Breton side. We were looking at this and said, gee, if somebody is coming to do business they need marine activity. Everybody knows the harbour is the deepest ice free port in North America, but we're sitting here with a landlocked industrial park that you can't get to.
Industry doesn't want to wait two or three years and go through the rigamarole that is our job to go through in terms of rezoning, so like Goldboro, we're being proactive, we're in Melford, we're going to a formal public hearing there to explain our strategy on January 26th and in that process, we're also altering the strategy, so that's not appealable. We're not amending a by-law, it's not appealable, so it depends on the community's reaction, and there is some resistance.
What we're intending to do, these brown areas that you see shooting out from the big brown area, and this one in particular is the best offshore opportunity, the best water depth in the area. We are rezoning those properties to marine industrial to be able to link that up with the 15,000 acre landlocked portion at the back.
In that instance, that little piece I showed you there, what we're going after first, is around 300 acres. We have a land agent who has been on our payroll for a year, to do these land assemblies. He's estimating that cost to be in the vicinity of $1.5 million. The municipality and the council is unanimously behind investing that money in ourselves,
essentially, to acquire that property in a fair manner from the residents and offer it as marine industrial opportunity.
The other pieces that I showed you that are zoned, some of those for the most part are owned by the province and when we get to the "what you can do" part, that's when we're going to be looking for provincial support.
Melford is probably one of the most thoroughly studied pieces of ground in North America, because it has been around for 35-plus years. There have been oceans of reviews, studies and engineering drawings that were done, and we conducted another one in 1998. I think one of the recommendations there, Gordon, was a tax-free zone - is that the one where the tax-free zone was? I don't know whatever happened to that. Anyway, there are tax-free zones here and there, but I haven't seen any in action in Nova Scotia yet.
In terms of what we have been doing, ourselves and our neighbours next door, in terms of infrastructure to try to make the municipality attractive to people who would be interested in coming and live their lives there has been on a couple of fronts. One of the things that we have done, which has had a double-barrelled benefit - obviously, if you look at the demographics on the age side, in terms of the advent of the Sable project, we have a lot of seniors, a lot of people who couldn't participate in working at the activity, and whose children had moved away and established homes in Fort McMurray and Calgary and Edmonton and Vancouver and Toronto and all over those big cities, where Nova Scotia youth has been going for some length of time.
In order to compensate for that and to help the seniors stay in their homes, we dropped our residential tax rate to the lowest tax rate in Nova Scotia - probably in Canada - at 57 cents. That is starting to show some benefits. First of all, the citizens are very grateful for that, everybody is. People from outside recognize that, too. We're getting some residential redevelopment and a lot of interest from people who are retiring back into Nova Scotia. So that certainly is a benefit. What it does is it attracts people and also helps our own citizens who are there.
We partnered with the provincial government, through the Department of Education, the Strait Regional School Board, and when a new school was built, opened three years ago, the municipality put up $500,000 in cash. We made that into a true community school. We put in two tennis courts at the school, we put in an 1,800-square foot fitness centre which is open to the public, and it has been a real hit and it's growing and growing. We also put in a $450,000 outdoor pool, a community pool, at that site. The fourth part of the picture there was the shell was created at that time for a performance space, a 250-seat performance space that's attached to the school. We haven't been able to get our act together to finish the inside of that, but I think we're very close to having that million dollar project go ahead in 2006. Stay tuned, you might be hearing things about it very shortly.
What we're doing there is if we're going to have industrial development, if we're going to have companies come in, in the instance of Keltic, and look at 600 and 700 direct jobs and all kinds of indirect jobs and similarly at Melford, then we need to have amenities in place, and make the place an attractive place for people to live, or our good friends in Antigonish will get all the residential development. Of course they're going to benefit widely from it, so is Port Hawkesbury and so will Pictou County, and that's great. But we have our own situation to look after, and we want to get our piece of this pie, too.
So our strategy is to develop the industrial, make the opportunity available, and be in a position to capitalize on some of the residential stuff that will happen from there. Then, we don't have to worry about the hospital in Canso closing, we don't have to worry about the schools around the area consolidating further, because we'll have kids to fill those schools. That's a big problem we have, and I know that it's not just Guysborough that's in that situation in terms of rural decline.
Our second generation landfill site, again was a great partnership, and that partnership started with the 17 municipal units between Pictou County, Antigonish County, Guysborough County, and all of Cape Breton agreeing to come together to go to one regional site to continue the business we were in. We were operating a landfill. I'm very happy to report that that is on schedule, on budget and ready to open January 1st. It's going to provide a solution for 20 years at least; we have 20-year contracts with our partners.
The way the province has been going at solving the solid waste issue in this province, I'm very proud of the work that we've done and the work the province has done on solid waste. I don't think we have to take a back seat to anybody on that matter. At the end of the day, it's the people who have to deal with the sorting and the clear bags and the blue bags, and who have slugged through all that stuff in Nova Scotia who made this thing work. That's something we certainly can all be proud of.
Trans Canada Trail, we have a huge chunk of abandoned rail line in Guysborough County. The Guysborough Railway, which was a monument to failure, was stopped in 1929 and 1930. Rights-of-way were there, so we've converted it to a lovely piece of the Trans Canada Trail, again with good co-operation from the other levels of government. We're moving ahead on that quite well.
Most recently the municipality - St. Mary's, Canso, Mulgrave and ourselves - got together with Industry Canada and the province and put together a broadband program, which now sees 14 communities in Guysborough County served with high-speed Internet, which is a major accomplishment. They wouldn't have gotten it in forever if we hadn't been able to do this. The other partner in that program which has been so essential to us is the regional development authority, because the municipal units don't have the staff to be able to do these kinds of things and to follow the programs through. In almost all these instances, the RDA has been very instrumental in helping us out.
With that, I would ask Dave to come up and talk about investing in our future.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: Warden Hines is always a hard man to follow. I feel like the poor cousin when I follow Lloyd. It's Guysborough County and we're all in it together, and that's why I'm here. We look at the Municipality of Guysborough and the aggressive stand that they're taking and putting forward to develop the county and, through their initiative, hopefully it will happen. Nobody else seems to be stepping forward, as they have, to make this a reality. I'm here to support them 100 per cent.
The Guysborough County RDA has been a partnership, of course, with ACOA, the province and the four municipal units for the past 10 years. We've had no problem at our municipal council table deciding to be part of this funding arrangement. Unfortunately, we're going to lose two of our contributors, being the Town of Canso and the Town of Mulgrave, due to fiscal restraints. Now, in 2006, we don't know what's going to happen. We may be floating it together, the Municipality of St. Mary's and the Municipality of Guysborough. We'll find that out later.
The Petroleum Office funding, we've contributed, over the past eight, eight and a half years, $610,000 in municipal contributions. With Keltic on the horizon, that may prove to be a very significant investment in the Municipality of Guysborough and the Municipality of St. Mary's. We don't stand to gain from the tax revenues as Guysborough may, but we're looking at it as a bedroom community for the project. We have a great municipality. We offer a wonderful quality of life to our residents, and we'd like to share that with anybody who would like to move to our area. We support Guysborough with their initiatives.
Now over the past number of years, the St. Mary's Municipal Council, along with Guysborough, have been very diligent in providing some recreation facilities for our residents and for tourism initiatives to bring people to the areas. The St. Mary's Recplex, although controversial in the beginning has proven to be one of the most wonderful facilities that St. Mary's has probably ever seen. The Guysborough waterfront is a spectacular development. I don't know if any of you people have ever been there but it's well worth the detour off Highway No. 104 to Guysborough and then you can make a nice loop back through St. Mary's and continue back to Halifax up Highway No. 107 someday.
Trails development has been important to the area. We, of course, are a rural area and people like to get out and enjoy the trails that have been developed. Unfortunately Guysborough County, in the past 20 years, has been reduced from a sportsman's paradise to a moonscape, due to deforestation. Some of these trails are in areas where you can still enjoy the wonders of nature.
The municipal parks have been important. We have a couple in our municipality that a lot of people enjoy. Guysborough has been diligent in developing parks in their municipality, a recent one is the Loyalist Park in Country Harbour, along with another park in Hazel Hill. The benefit of those parks is, as you travel - if most of you do - it's nice to have that little spot off to the side to jump out, have a meal at a picnic table and enjoy the surrounding area for a short time. Not everybody is in tune to restaurant food every meal, they like to step out, have a bit of leisure and enjoy the outdoors.
The planned projects, Lloyd touched on the Chedabucto Place Theatre, which will be a definite benefit to the entire area. We've partnered on the Canada Games bid for 2011, although our municipality is kind of out of the loop a bit, we do have the Recplex and we've been assured that we will have some activity there, so it's nice to partner in that initiative.
The small call centre in St. Mary's, with the introduction of highspeed Internet to the county and our municipality, we look at that as there is an opportunity there. We don't need a 200- or 300-seat call centre, we have a couple of venues where we could certainly house 20 to 30 people. We're working with the Guysborough County RDA for that initiative.
Guysborough, of course, I guess Lloyd hasn't touched base on the Civic Centre. I'm not 100 per cent clued in on the Civic Centre but I know it was part of their bid with the 2011 Canada Games to have that facility developed and in place for those games.
We've dropped a guide book in everybody's package, that's something we've partnered with the four municipal units. It's something that may be of some interest to you people. It was a wonderful project, we had co-operation from the four units, everybody understood the importance of what we had to offer the tourism industry. So if you have a weekend, you want to get out, we'd like to have you get out to Guysborough County. Thank you.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Thank you, Dave. I guess now it is time to look at what we see, where we can get some help and some continued support to get a shoulder to the wheel and get some of these bad numbers into good ones.
One thing that popped into my mind, Dave, when you were talking about the call centre, we've been having some discussions with Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI). We found out that the payroll subsidy is not available for employee groups below a certain threshold. I'm not sure what that is, Brooke, maybe you know, is it maybe 50 people? (Interruption) So 50 jobs in Halifax might not be significant. Fifty jobs in St. Mary's would have a significant effect to turn around some of the stuff that we're talking about, so that's just food for thought.
In Nova Scotia, as you're all aware, there is a lot of strategic land that is owned by the Crown and controlled by the province. What we're saying is, what about doing an inventory of that economic development land? The province has lots of land, for instance, Melford Land Reserve, that could be used for industrial activity. To develop a policy to use that opportunity that that fundamental foundation piece, which is the land that you're going to locate something on, could be used to generate economic development. That's not saying that the province isn't doing that now, but I think there are ways it could be made a lot easier in terms of when we go to talk to government about how these properties are used.
In the instance of Melford, the roots of the authority for that property is vested in four departments -Environment and Labour, Resources, Office of Economic Development, and Transportation and Public Works. Holy catfish, when you try to get all of the folks in the room to agree on what it is we want to do, then sometimes it's a little bit daunting, shall we say. Maybe government could look at that and make it a little bit easier.
In terms of convergence of supply, the energy policy that was released a couple of years ago clearly talked about convergence as an important opportunity to create a critical mass of industry at one particular place, that could result in industrial development. To some extent that still remains a policy of the energy strategy.
In the instance of Anadarko, the information that we have received is that the transmission line from Bear Head will come through the existing easement, 58 kilometres overland in the municipality, to within seven kilometres of the existing gas plant, so that does present some opportunities. That seven kilometres is not as close as we'd like to see it, we're working with Maritimes Northeast to see if we can get it a little closer, that's a good thing, but we need that to continue, we need that convergence to create the critical mass. All the convergence doesn't have to happen in Halifax Harbour.
For Goldboro on the Keltic project, that's a huge project, it's $4 billion to $5 billion and it's easy to say that number but when you sit down and start thinking about it, it's massive. To get all the stars aligned so that that money can be released to people who have that money, to financing and so on, it's a big job. There's a real role for government, both federal and provincial, to play in that regard.
Just recently I think there was a little bit of movement by the CNSOPB where they dropped some of the rigour associated with exploration development and drilling wells. Without jeopardizing our environmental stewardship, that I know all Nova Scotians are very strong on, it may make it a little easier for those kinds of projects to go forward.
I guess all the environmentalists in Canada don't live in B.C. or Toronto. We have lots of people who get their daily bread from making sure that they are very sustainable in their activities. Sometimes that gets overlooked by the folks who come in and tell us what we should be doing with our environmental economy, but I think we know pretty good
because we live it every day as Nova Scotians, it has been our past and we see it as our future.
Melford on port development. The lands down there, as I mentioned, for Melford, are owned by the province. We need good, tight co-operation from the province in these matters. We're living in a global economy, so if somebody in Hong Kong decides to move $2 billion or $3 billion into North America, we have to be ready to go because they'll make that decision within a month. If things are not in place or if there are lots of bureaucratic hurdles that are in the way, then they'll go somewhere else. We've seen that happen lots of times in Nova Scotia, so we're asking for the province to be nimble and flexible when it comes to those kinds of things. At Melford there is a tremendous opportunity and these are not just for Guysborough County at all, these are things that will help Nova Scotia on the long haul, for all Nova Scotians.
We'd like to see the government departments become more involved in industry and in the development of our two industrial parks that we're looking at, Melford and Goldboro. There are all kinds of facilities out there and processes within government to help and I guess we kind of just have to get on the same page maybe a little bit better than we have been doing. So, Dave, do you want to wrap up?
MR. DAVID CLARKE: I guess when we look around the province, Guysborough County is not alone, rural areas are suffering regardless of what area of the province you're from. The centralization of corporate and government services has been a real detriment to our rural way of living.
The Nova Scotia Youth Secretariat came to Guysborough a year and a half ago. We met with the youth of Guysborough County and it was a forum where they wanted to understand the barriers to employment for youth in Guysborough County. In the room that day we had about 50 kids who attended that session. When asked the question, if you were offered the opportunity for stable, long-term employment in Guysborough County, would you stay? Only one girl said no, I want to travel, I don't want to stay in Guysborough County. The rest of the room was unanimous, they wanted to stay.
When you look at our youth and the opportunities with the introduction of high-speed Internet throughout the province, in our county, you can basically run any government office, corporate office, business with the use of a high-speed Internet connection and a phone line. We're kind of at the tail end of the media generation. The kids who are coming up, at age 15, 13, fully understand computers, there's probably not a question asked that they can't answer. To lose those youths to the large cities of the world, to be caught up in the jungles - I'm not prejudiced against cities but I know the quality of life that I enjoy in my municipality - to see them lose that opportunity, it's a tough pill for me to swallow.
You guys have the opportunity to make those decisions, where our government offices are going to be located, where you want to house people to work. In your discussions, you should consider quality of life and the youth of this province, to try to retain what we have. We just can't afford to continue to lose them at the rate that we're losing them. In our county now, we are down to a little over 2,700 people and 2016 doesn't look good. I just wanted to mention that to you.
The assistance for a small call centre in the District of St. Mary's, through Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Nova Scotia Office of Economic Development, as Lloyd said, 50 jobs mean a lot to an area of our size. We're not looking for a 200- or 300-seat call centre, but I'm assured that if we had a 30-, 40-, or 50-seat call centre, you wouldn't have the turnover that you have in the larger ones, you would have people who would be committed, loyal to their employer, and would stay and work.
We have one of the anchors for the tourism industry in St. Mary's Municipality being Sherbrooke Village. If you're coming down the Eastern Shore and continuing your trip through to Cape Breton, except for the exceptional drive that you will experience coming down the Eastern Shore, as Mr. Pye can well justify, it's a beautiful area. Sherbrooke Village is an attraction that people want to come to see. I want to tell you from my perspective at the council table in Sherbrooke that we appreciate everything that is done from the province to benefit Sherbrooke Village. Mr. Chisholm has worked long and hard for the Village.
Tourism is a tough industry today and when I listened to Mike Broomfield speak a month ago, he didn't paint a very pretty picture for tourism in Nova Scotia. It was hard to hear that but I guess it is a reality. So we have to be more creative when it comes to tourism, we have to offer a product that people want to come to see. Sherbrooke Village has done an economic outlook study with help from the province, the municipal units, and ACOA, and they want to implement that strategy. It will take some money to do that, they're looking for support from all levels to do that, and hopefully that will come to fruition for them.
Liscombe Lodge, of course, everybody is familiar with it, it's one of the major employers in our municipality now. It's provincially owned but managed by an outside agency. That is probably one of the best family resorts, I guess, with the exception of Keltic now. Keltic in Cape Breton has been identified as No. 6 in the world for family destinations - did you read that recently? It's quite an achievement. Liscombe Lodge offers a great family vacation package, it has numerous activities, trails, fishing available for anybody who would like to get out and enjoy Guysborough County's wonderful nature.
In closing, it has been a privilege for me to come here today to speak with you. This is new to me, I'm newly elected as a warden of St. Mary's. Lloyd, like I said, is a tough act to follow but we're in this together. If we are going to grow and continue to grow in
Guysborough County, we have to work in co-operation, and St. Mary's Municipality is certainly prepared to do that with our neighbouring municipality and all levels of government to make our municipality and the county a destination of choice to live. Thank you.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Thank you very much, Dave. Every time I get the chance to be with you, you improve every time and it's a pleasure to have you as a municipal partner on the western part of the municipality. Mr. Chairman, that finishes the formal part of the presentation and we would welcome any questions the group may have.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Warden Hines and Mr. MacDonald, for the very detailed presentation. I would suggest to committee members with questions that we only have 55 minutes, and I would ask you to be brief in your questions as I'm sure many of the members will have questions. Who wishes to start?
MS. JOAN MASSEY: Certainly, the presentation today was great. The documents that we were provided show that your county has done an awful lot of long, hard work in trying to come up with some kind of solution, everything from strategic planning reports from 2003 to 2007, and your business survey, your leadership surveys and strategic planning retreat for 2004. I have a whole slew of questions and there's no way I'm going to get them all asked.
I am the Tourism, Culture and Heritage Critic, so I did want to ask some questions today with regard to Sherbrooke Village, and I know you touched on that. I couldn't help but notice there was a nice ad in the paper yesterday on your Old Fashioned Christmas.
Lately, I think, when we're talking about Tourism we forget there are sections called Heritage and Culture. I think this is a perfect opportunity for the Government of Nova Scotia to really highlight that this is not just a lovely destination to go to but there's a lot of heritage wrapped up in that facility.
I know your numbers are down, 44,000 people went through there in 2005, so I looked for some numbers for the past tourism season, because I couldn't find that anywhere. I looked through my stuff yesterday and I couldn't find any numbers, they don't show that on the Tourism Insights document.
I'm wondering about school tours, if those numbers specifically are up or down and how we're going to try to get more students down there, because I think it's very important for heritage and culture to get the students down to these areas in the province that otherwise they're not going to see. I know in your 2005-06 business plan, you did an analysis and you did make some recommendations. However, I don't think the recommendations were actually in that document for Sherbrooke Village, so I'm really sort of trying to highlight that.
I think you might be expecting a funding cut and I'm wondering if you were going to be given more money, or are you asking for more money for advertising and signage? I know you are out of the way a bit and I think we've become a little bit reliant on cruise ships. We have to go back to the drawing board and look at these places in Nova Scotia that have sort of been lost and forgotten.
In this binder it says "Play Here" and I think in order for people to play there we have to get them there. So I'm just looking for some input on how you think we're going to do that or how the Tourism, Culture and Heritage Department is going to help you.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: You're right, the numbers are down again this year. As Mike Broomfield indicated - AESTA, Antigonish-Eastern Shore Tourism Association Director - he is very concerned with the trends in tourism. Now Sherbrooke Village has been struggling, we partnered with them on a marketing initiative, Wish You Were In Sherbrooke Now?, last year. That, unfortunately, didn't get the results that they expected, although they did put about $90,000 into advertising with that initiative, through partnerships with numerous agencies.
There's no clear solution to the tourism problem, I guess. If the markets that traditionally came from the U.S. are not coming, I guess it's time that we look elsewhere. AESTA has launched the novascotiaseacoast.com Web site, where they're packaging vacation packages. Sherbrooke Village has become involved with that, they're packaging with tourism operators in the area for accommodations in the Village tours. As a municipal council we really haven't interfered much with Sherbrooke Village in terms of their strategies. We've supported them with money, but they kind of run their own show in that respect.
With the living history program, Hands On History, they are still continuing to bring schoolchildren there. They immerse them in the Village. They have numerous workshops that they run those children through. Actually ExxonMobil was a supporter this year. They've partnered with Sherbrooke Village to keep that initiative alive. It has been very well received. The time frame is quite short that the Village is open. When the schools get back in, they only have from September through to mid-October. They can only fit so many in, and then in the Spring, of course, there's another month period there, but they don't want to interfere with studies.
MS. MASSEY: But the numbers, from what I've read, are down on the school tours. So I'm just wondering if there's a strategy to bring those numbers up. School tours don't rely on anything - it's not a tourism thing per se, it's school board/municipality/government funding. It's expensive to get on a bus and just get down to these places. I'm sort of looking at it from that angle.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: And this year with the partnership with ExxonMobil, they've raised those numbers. Now what will continue in the future, I'm not certain of that because we've never been asked to assist in any way, from the municipality's perspective. I'm sure that the Sherbrooke Village Commission is exploring all opportunities to continue. I know it has been discussed, accommodations are always a problem. They have a couple of vacant buildings that they would like to develop further for more accommodations. They just basically have the Brigley House now that they utilize for those school tours.
MS. MASSEY: Am I out of time?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You have about another three minutes.
MS. MASSEY: I was just wondering, a lot of the discussion this morning is really based on youth and keeping the youth there in your own county. I happened to be at a task force planning committee meeting the other night on heritage. Someone in the audience got up and spoke about the lack of apprenticeship courses in culture in Nova Scotia, and that there should be more youth going into these kinds of courses. I know somebody this morning touched on call centres. I don't know if any of you have ever worked in a call centre, but I know youth who have. It's not a career. I'm just wondering if you've heard of any of these apprenticeship culture - something that could be put in down in Guysborough County that youth . . .
MR. GILLIS: In the past Sherbrooke Village was more of an ad hoc program that was put together to have some apprentices in some of the workshops there. I believe there's costuming and pottery. I think they were fairly successful, but there was no program to continue them. It was just sort of a one-off. Now with the new program through the Department of Education, there may be some opportunities there, Workit, I believe it's called.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. McNeil.
MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you for the presentation today. Many of the issues that you've highlighted with your municipalities are, to varying degrees, all across rural Nova Scotia. I'm pleased that you brought it here and are beginning to put it on the provincial agenda, because it's an issue that needs to be dealt with and relatively quickly.
Warden Hines, I think it was in your presentation that you spoke around the Goldboro project, in the very beginning, how there were a large number of employment jobs and that they now have presently migrated to Halifax. Did I understand that correctly? Maybe you could explain why they've come to Halifax.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Well, the oil and gas sector is one of the most highly refined technological users in the globe. They're leading edge in terms of technology. Much of the activity associated with the Sable project is handled remotely and is robotic in many instances. You also have to understand that when the project started, it was a partnership with Mobil and Shell, Imperial Oil. When it opened, just prior to it actually being completed in 1999, ExxonMobil merged, or Exxon - you could call it a merger or a takeover - became the driving partner in their activities here. From their perspective, the Sable Project, which is, as we know - it has been in the media - not reaching the reserve targets that they had hoped it would, and they're continuing to invest in it, they're putting compression in there now to drive those numbers back up, but it's not performing as well as it had, and the reserves were reduced, in particular Shell's component.
They're looking at ways of making the operation more efficient. Their headquarters for their operations, the Canadian president is here in Halifax. They have a big interest in Newfoundland. So we look at it from the point of view that this is the Sable project; they look at it as an integrated part of their business across the region.
One of the things that we have been disappointed in is that the commitments that were made in the development plan that was put forward, and it was heard by the National Energy Board and others, sometimes developers are not necessarily held to that. We'd like to see, in future projects, a little bit more teeth, so that if they say there are going to be 40 jobs and that they're going to be domiciled in Goldboro, that they are there. The reality is that over the past number of years in this particular project, administrative positions that were going to build our community have either been relocated to Halifax or to Newfoundland, and the activities broadened for those people, or phased out, which we're not happy with, obviously.
In the instance of the Keltic project, it's a completely different situation. It's a manufacturing process. There are 500 or 600 manufacturing jobs that will sit in the area, and that's where they'll be located. It won't be activities that they can do on a computer on Hollis Street. That's why those kinds of activities are good. LNG at Bear Head, for instance, is going to supply, I believe, 40 jobs. Forty jobs is good, but it's not a home run as far as embedding community opportunity through the presence of people. I'm sure Bear Head will lead to other activities that may create more jobs.
But it's the nature of the beast, in terms of how the evolution is with the change in their operation. Even though it's ExxonMobil, they got to be where they are, the biggest corporation in the universe, by counting pennies. That's what they do. It's a fact of life for business.
MR. MCNEIL: Also during the presentation - and first of all I want to congratulate your RDA for the tremendous work that they're doing - it was mentioned that two of your funding partners are going to pull out. My first question around that issue is, is the RDA able to sustain itself, are the other municipalities able to do that? Has there been any discussion with the province on it; if not, how do you deal with that?
MR. LLOYD HINES: Could I respond to that? First of all, on our two funding partners, which are the Town of Canso and the Town of Mulgrave, we have great relations with them. I think our regional development authority, I know, has been a model for how this process works to bring the three levels of government in, to focus on economic development in Nova Scotia. I'm a real proponent of that, I think it has worked very well. It has brought our municipalities together. In our instance there were four that provided the one-third to bring the province and the feds in. I think across the province that can be looked at and seen to be very successful. I think we're maybe the most successful in our area. Part of the reason for that is that we knew 10 years ago that this was where we were at, that we had to promote economic development here and we had to find ways to do it. The people in the communities were ready to accept that.
We still have great partnerships with Canso and Mulgrave. They have been with us through this process, even though they had withdrawn from the regional development authority. When we rolled this out locally, we brought them in and they came and they understand they are still partners in our economic development activities for our area.
The reality is that those two towns are in some difficulty, internally, with regard to managing their own finances and they have choices to make. Do we put the $20,000 into the regional development authority, or do we give the fire department a little bit more money to keep them going, and those are tough choices that they have to make. We understand why they're not here with us today and we know that both of them will be back as soon as they get their financial situation . . .
MR. MCNEIL: But in the meantime, the $20,000 that might be coming out of those two municipalities, is that being picked up by the other municipalities, or has there been some relationship with the province to fund that?
MR. LLOYD HINES: Well, Dave alluded to that. We had some decisions to make, he and I and our councils, in terms of what value we see on the regional development authority process. I know that our council - and we're getting into budgeting - is very committed to continuing what we're doing. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to find that shortfall in the one-third, to be able to maintain the regional development authority, so it's not threatened.
MR. MCNEIL: Has there been any discussion with the province to make sure that happens?
MR. LLOYD HINES: Yes, we've had some discussions. I guess the staff would be better able to answer that. Dan, do you want to shed some light on that?
MR. GILLIS: Yes, but both the province and ACOA will only match what the municipalities are able to contribute. This year there was an increase in funding for RDAs and we're not going to take advantage of the entire increase. So this year we're able to complete the year within the budget of the two partners, and Mulgrave was there for half the year, and we were able to complete it. Next year we will have to look at what we're going to need to operate and where the funds will come from.
Right now they are starting to look at funding for the next generation, there has been five years ending next fiscal 2007, of provincial funding, ACOA funding, I guess that was probably the second generation of funding, after the co-operative agreement. The next generation they're looking at the possibility of writing it in the contract that if one of the municipalities for financial reasons has to pull out, that the others wouldn't. Right now, the way everything is written, they do, so we're in a bit of a crunch this year, but we're able to complete the year with staff intact and our programs intact. Next year we'll have to look upon the municipalities that are able - Canso is thinking they're going to look at their finances, they might be able to - come back, so we'll look at it from that point and see what we can afford.
MR. MCNEIL: Has NSBI been at all supportive, have they been helpful at all to your communities in terms of economic development? When you have spoken to them, have there been any positive results?
MR. LLOYD HINES: Well, we do know who NSBI is. Recently we've had the beginnings of a dialogue, and I mean in the last several months. For a while, we really felt there wasn't much dial tone, but I do know that now we're getting some meetings scheduled with some of the folks associated with it.
MR. MCNEIL: It's because of your broadband you're getting a dial tone. (Laughter)
MR. LLOYD HINES: Yeah, maybe that's what it is. I think it's because I was very direct when I met with a representative and said, what are you doing in our area? Do you have a mandate in our area? Where are you? We made it very clear that we felt we weren't getting very good coverage, so we complained. Maybe it was our fault that we didn't do that previously, though we did try to open avenues with Stephen Lund and the organization there.
We feel we're doing the Lord's work in Guysborough. We're trying to develop these industrial activities and we need the help of every partner we can get. We feel that NSBI could be a better partner. Having said that, it looks like they're ready to pony up to the table.
To go back to the comments on tourism earlier, in terms of what our problems are, the problem that we have is that we owe $12 billion as a province. We don't have any money to fix up Sherbrooke Village houses because we need that money for hospitals and schools. So we're not going to solve the bad roads in Nova Scotia that are hurting our tourism. We're not going to be able to solve the lessening commitment to the development of that industry in this province until we solve the income problem and get this province productive through industrial and economic development to provide money to pay down those bills, so that we have money to do those wonderful things in heritage and culture that we have to do, and NSBI can be a good help for that.
MR. MCNEIL: The bad roads in Lunenburg County seem to be getting fixed.
MR. LLOYD HINES: No comment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Taylor.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, guys, that was a heck of a presentation this morning. I was just looking at some of the statistics you provided and a couple of things really stick out. You have had a population decline since 1986 of 23 per cent until 2001 and you've lost, frankly, 13 schools - you had 18 - or around 70 per cent of your schools have gone by the wayside, just doing some rough math here. There's nothing more devastating to a community than to learn that their school is going to close and I believe the key is governments, and I mean at all levels, have to look at ways to keep schools in small town, rural Nova Scotia, the rural decline will continue.
The Education Act makes it very easy for the school boards to start the process to close the schools in rural Nova Scotia and the rural decline will continue, unless there is some creative way that government at all levels can work to this end. If we don't, it's going to be extremely difficult for the communities to sustain themselves. The key is education.
Young families across this country are looking for places where there are schools, that's where they will locate. You have fantastic job opportunities, the lowest tax rates in the country and you're still seeing this out-migration. I'm really concerned, of course, for your situation, but I'm concerned for our rural communities right across this province. There is a process and it is a public process, but we have to unite.
I know in the municipal level a number of units have really taken a stand on the further erosion of rural Nova Scotia. I guess more than just a question, I certainly concur with your assessment of the quality of life in rural Nova Scotia, but if we don't find a way, somehow, to address this concern, you've lost over 70 per cent of your schools, your population has declined. I think the answer is somewhere in that, I really do, that's a big concern.
I think governments, irrespective of stripe, have to seriously look at a way - the call centre policy, for example. You're absolutely right, whether it's Mulgrave, Canso, or Musquodoboit, 50 jobs, 25 jobs, but the formula is the same, the cookie cutter is the same for Halifax as it is for rural Nova Scotia. I think while I agree with you, I don't have a solution, but I think a starting point would be finding a way to keep those education facilities in small rural communities. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, if there's time can I turn it over to the member? I guess that's your call.
MR. CHAIRMAN: He'll be coming along, yes.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: Mr. Chairman, can I make a comment?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure.
MR. DAVID CLARKE: We've been assured at St. Mary's Academy, we're not sure about the Education Centre but at least the academy will remain there. Geographically, we're so far displaced that it's not feasible to bus kids any further than we're taking them already.
I had the privilege of growing up in Sherbrooke and worked out of the area for 20 years and at the first opportunity to move back, I took it. The number one reason I took it was I wanted my son to go to St. Mary's Academy. He stepped in there at the Grade 7 level and when he came home the phone was ringing and it didn't stop. The respect that is conveyed to those kids, Walter Duggan has been our principal there for eight or 10 years, he finished his career last year, he taught there for 34 years.
I would say that was probably one of the best schools in this province. It was small, regardless of what teacher you met with, they knew who you were, they knew who your kids were, if you had two or three or four kids, they all knew who you were and who your kids were. It was a safe environment, and the respect that was conveyed to those kids, by the principal, the graduating class every year, was unbelievable. They were held in very high regard, regardless of where they went. Their manners, the way they conducted themselves was always mentioned.
Now, I'm not saying that larger P3 schools don't have the same quality of kids, but I'll tell you in discussions with people whose kids go to these larger education centres, there are some serious problems. When you think about having RCMP on staff to monitor the hallways, you wonder about that, what are we putting our kids into for an education system?
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, further, I could just say that I think we all know, certainly around this committee room, what the demographic is and where the baby boomers are going and where they have gone, but we haven't really moved in the direction to really
address that. Especially in eastern Halifax County and Guysborough County, we know what the demographic is but there's got to be something more than just simply closing these small schools down. You look at something - we can't keep them open for the sake of keeping them open, but there has to be a way to adjust them, amend the formula, maybe smaller, whatever. The process clearly has to be reviewed, in my opinion.
MR. LLOYD HINES: Mr. Chairman, just briefly on that, in terms of what Mr. Taylor is saying, we have to start thinking outside the box in education. It's a big silo in government. In Guysborough we were able to convince them to do a community use. We have four facilities that we financed that are in there. It's bringing people into schools, making the school relevant, it's making it attractive.
Do you know who operates the biggest transit system in Nova Scotia? It's not Metro Transit. It's all those big yellow school buses driving around rural Nova Scotia that are empty. Why can't we change the regulation so that if John wants to go work 20 klicks away, they can get on the school bus in the morning and drive there and come back home. Why isn't that being done? We have to start thinking differently about what we're doing here if we're going to get rural activity to survive.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pye.
MR. JERRY PYE: I want to thank you for your presentation today. I want to say that it certainly demonstrates to us members who serve in the provincial Legislature, many of us from rural Nova Scotia, the lack of a real rural economic development plan. That doesn't only mean for Guysborough but for all of the rural communities throughout Nova Scotia. I think that successive governments are partly responsible for not developing a comprehensive plan that would address the issues before they become the kinds of serious issues that we see today, particularly with out-migration of population and people moving, because that's a cost, that's a cost to government, it's a cost to communities.
I want to say to you that I lived in a small fishing village on the Eastern Shore. I grew up in a fishing village called Ecum Secum. I left there some four decades ago. So I decided to go down this Summer to take a tour of the little hamlets, the fishing villages and the towns along the Eastern Shore. I started from the very end of Mulgrave and I came up through the Marine Drive highway. I just simply took note and watched the devastation that was left behind as a result of out-migration.
During my time the major components of industry were fisheries, farming and tourism. Those were the three major components. Today tourism is but a shell of itself - in 1965. Fisheries, as a matter of fact is some shell of itself. In my day, there were, in fact, fish processing plants along the coastline of the Eastern Shore as well. Forestry is mostly done on lands that are private woodlots; one individual made mention of moonscaping of those without any consequences, any thought to developing forestry in a comprehensive way.
My concern is that we have an attitude that we need to reach for the sky, and we have an attitude that big massive development is something that's going to get us out of the problems in rural Nova Scotia, instead of giving some various thought in another paradigm whereby if we think small cottage industries, industries that are sustainable, industries that will keep people in communities, small family-run industries and so on, those are the kinds of things that I think we are missing the boat on and the kinds of things we should be giving some serious consideration to.
I just recently watched a CBC program where the only Chinese restaurant in Sherbrooke could potentially close, a family-run business, because of the population base and the lack of tourism, might actually close its doors. I spent three days at Liscombe Lodge and listened to the citizens who are employed there tell me about the decline in tourism this year around that community and what that means to them. Many of those individuals, believe it or not, their only source of income after the tourism season closes is employment insurance. That's something that we need to be thinking about.
So when you come here presenting the purchase and the acquisition of lands for LNG terminals, for offshore economic development and you're competing with the residents in communities who are fighting the URB because you're acquiring their properties and so on, and you think about that and that those lands are sitting idle for many years in hopes of industrial development which may never come.
I think we need to take our hats off. We need to sit down at a table - and I don't know how often you do this - with government and talk to government, and ask government for their input. I would like to know just exactly what input you are now receiving from the provincial and federal governments, if there is a monthly meeting with provincial and federal governments on the devastation that is caused by not paying the kind of close attention to rural economic development in this province.
I think we pay a price in metro. I represent a constituency, if you look across the harbour from this room, Dartmouth North, there's some 22,000 people employed in Burnside Industrial Park. That's larger than at least three or four major towns in the Province of Nova Scotia. Many of those people have migrated from rural Nova Scotia to find employment. People have told me about the lack of technology, the lack of high-speed Internet services, the lack of cellphone services along the Guysborough County-Eastern Shore constituency, and that is a deterrent, that prevents development from coming in.
So I'm sure that you've all given this some real serious thought, but as a person who grew up and left this community, as one of the people who had to leave in the 1960s, to seek employment, I don't want to see that being a continuous road out. I know the consequences of that.
What I'm asking you, through you, Mr. Chairman, whoever wants to speak on this, is what are you doing to make sure that something is on the ground that's sustainable now? I'm not talking about expectations, speculation, you have a hunch about a bunch, you snooze, you lose, and all those kinds of phrases. I want to know exactly what you're doing now that tells me that you have something on the ground that has a foundation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If I could have a very brief answer from the representatives, whoever wants to answer that, we have numerous members who want to ask questions and we're running out of time.
MR. GORDON MACDONALD: I guess there's not really one easy answer, just some observations. I've worked in economic development now for 10 years. We do require a lot more focused effort. What's happening in rural communities, it is not unique to Guysborough it's just probably a little bit worse in Guysborough than it is anywhere else. There are concrete things that I think can be done. Because of the time, I'm not going to get into a long response but one of the things I would suggest, in terms of government action, is there is a role to play for all levels of government. One of the things that I've seen over the years, consistently, is government programs are often linked to your population, so it further penalizes the areas that need the help and the assistance. That happens constantly, program after program is introduced that's supposed to help but it misses the mark because it's based on population. The regions and the communities that really don't need the help are the ones that will most often receive the help.
In terms of what we're doing ourselves, directly, we've gone through extensive planning, both the RDA and the municipal units as well. The message that we've received from residents and what we've focused on ourselves is to focus on industrial development. We've done that in two nodes that we've set aside for those industrial activities, in Goldboro and in Melford. In some ways I guess you could say we are betting a little bit on the home run and counting on the home run, but we're doing so, we're investing our own money and are committing our own resources to that pursuit. What we're hoping for today is to get the message out that we're looking for partners in that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chisholm, very briefly, please.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Gordie, Dave, Dan, Lloyd, a great presentation, as is usual, a great job. You had the economic outlook study that was done, basically based on your presentation. I remember, probably six or eight months ago, when you initiated this, I was maybe a little apprehensive on what was going to happen. Maybe I knew what the outcome was going to be, and maybe I wasn't going to like it. Basically I just knew, it basically confirms what we already knew about what was happening in Guysborough County and in the Eastern Shore, too, the other part of my riding that I represent is no different. Up that way they have their problems with tourism, and they have their problems with pretty well everything that we've discussed here today.
The population decline, a lot of discussion has gone on around that here today, that basically it started in 1981. Well, it started long before 1981; back in the early 1900s there was well over 20,000 people in Guysborough County, when the fishery was vibrant and the forestry, things like that. It just didn't start yesterday. Fifteen years ago, and I look back to when I first went on council, we were having the same problems, people were leaving. We didn't have the infrastructure in place then that we have now to try to keep people here. There was no Chedabucto Place, like you have in Guysborough now. There was no second-generation landfill, trail development, the Recplex in St. Mary's, there was none of that stuff. We had tried, probably 25 years ago, to get an ice surface in Sherbrooke, and we were never successful, but it's there now.
So a lot of things have happened. A lot of the reason, we felt at the time, I know from my council days and being a member of Community Futures, that was in place before the RDAs, and then being on the board of the RDA as well, our focus was if we're going to keep people there we have to put the infrastructure in place so that people will stay. Young families want to have the rinks and they want to have the fitness centres. I think you fellows have come, the municipalities and the RDAs, a long ways to see that that infrastructure was put in place. The province has partnered with the municipalities over the last number of years to see that that's happened.
Highway infrastructure is another one. We know we have problems, but we're making improvements in that area. Is it enough? No. We know it's not enough. But like Lloyd said, we have to find the resources to be able to work on the roads. Sherbrooke Village was brought up by a colleague across the way, the member for Dartmouth East. I guess she had mentioned there were even cuts to Sherbrooke Village. Well, I have to tell you that that's not the case. Sherbrooke Village, I think back in 1999, when I came on provincially, the operating grant was something over $700,000. Today it's up around $950,000.
I don't think things are doom and gloom, I think we're on the right track in Guysborough County. The municipalities and the RDA are doing a great job of seeing that things happen down there. I think there are some things that probably in the next few years will come to fruition, and things will get better. We still have to keep working on it. As you say, partnerships are a key component of what we have to do. Our government, I know, will make that commitment to work with the municipalities, work with the RDAs, and do what we have to do to see that the economy gets a little bit better down there. We do know we have a problem. I don't have any questions, just those few comments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I know there's a nice water treatment plant down in St. Mary's. (Interruptions)
MR. CHISHOLM: I have a picture of you and I turning the sod for that one.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I thought I would throw that out there.
Mr. Parker, very briefly, please.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: I must commend you folks for your presentation and for identifying the problem and maybe trying to figure out other solutions here. While it's compounded in Guysborough County, it's certainly represented right across Nova Scotia. It's certainly a problem in Pictou County, but to a lesser extent. Nonetheless it's there and it's growing. How do we stem out-migration? How do we build our economy? How do we keep our young people here? It's all related.
One thing, David, that you had mentioned earlier, and my colleague picked up on it, was the forestry industry. It's certainly important, but it provides less jobs now than it used to. You referred to the term 'moonscape' as what's happening to our forests. They're being depleted. Actually what's happening is we're losing our natural capital. We're taking all the wood away, and it's not being replaced as much or it's not being replaced in the same fashion as it's a lot of single-species trees being replanted, and we're losing the diversity of our forests.
One initiative that I understand Nova Forest Alliance in central Nova Scotia is looking at is how can we make better use of our forests, how can we look at more diversity, and in the long run create more employment, more jobs. That's an area that I think has a lot of potential for Guysborough County and for a lot of our rural counties. I know you're doing quite a bit of work around Christmas trees, and there's certainly value added there, in building wreaths and other products that are exported. It's a cottage industry that has a lot of potential. Is the forestry industry something that you've identified or looked at as having potential for diversity and for more employment?
MR. DAVID CLARKE: With regard to forestry, do you know how long it takes to process a 55-foot tree today? Nine seconds, 13 if you're quite as good on the joystick. I look at tourism and I look at forestry, and I think - I drove recently from Sherbrooke through to Canso on Route 316. I'll tell you, there's total devastation along the highway. They're parking on the yellow line to cut the trees down beside the road, it's that bad. Guysborough County, in my opinion, when I said it was reduced from a sportsman's paradise to a moonscape, it has. St. Mary's River was a world-class salmon angling destination. People came from around the world to fish that river. On any given day during the season, there would be between 50 and - on the weekends - probably 250 to 300 people enjoying that resource. Today, people won't walk across the street to fish in it, because we've allowed deforestation to basically kill that river.
When you think about value added, a lot of those individuals, they're just trying to maintain, supplement their income so they can stay in Guysborough County. They maintain a Christmas tree lot, they go out and do that labour to build those wreaths for a month prior
to Christmas just trying to boost the income so they can maintain and stay where they want to live. I have to give them a lot of credit. A lot of people who live in Guysborough County made some personal sacrifices to stay there. They could have uprooted, moved away and probably had a better living, but they decided to stay there where they had a quality of life, they knew who their neighbours were, they knew where their kids were going to school, they knew what they had. Rather than give that up, they endured.
Dan sits on our Forestry Advisory Committee and he'll fill you in more on the value-added initiatives that they're working on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Dan, if I could just ask, because of the time, I'm wondering, could you provide Mr. Parker with just a quick response?
MR. GILLIS: Just a couple of sentences from me, maybe not on the value added, but we recognize that as something that we're missing out on because only 3 per cent of our trees that are harvested in Guysborough County are made into something.
You mentioned Nova Forest Alliance, we are an associate member with them. Most of the RDAs in the province have recognized the need for sustainable forest practices. We organize forest conferences each year in various parts of the province, we're quite active in the one in our area, and part of that is promoting certification and promoting sustainable forest practices in the future.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Gaudet.
MR. WAYNE GAUDET: I guess I should start off by looking at your list: what can the province do? Listening to your presentation this morning, you've raised issues that many rural communities are challenged by. I'm just wondering quickly before we close here this morning, in terms of our committee and listening to your requests in terms of what the province could do, I'm interested in finding out, it was raised in terms of tax incentives, tax breaks, or tax zones, what would be your number one item on your wish list, in terms of if you could ask the province to help out? Yes, there was Crown land, there were many things on your list. I'm just curious in terms of what would be your number one priority?
MR. LLOYD HINES: We are focused, as you can see here, to get to home run - as Gordon has mentioned - and our appetite for that has certainly been whetted by what we have seen with the advent of the presence of ExxonMobil as a client in our municipality, and the ability that that gives us to build infrastructure, to offer benefits to our folks in the area. So co-operating with us, or endorsing, or underwriting, or helping our activities on that particular side would probably be the biggest thing that we would see in terms of helping us out. Part of that process is in order to get from point A to point B in any kind of development - and, Mr. Pye, it's not just the big industries, it's the small industries too, for instance, aquaculture is one - there are a lot of bureaucratic, regulatory hurdles to go through.
If we could work together to try to understand some of those processes - I mentioned four or five departments involved in Melford - to collapse those things down to an understandable level, without having to compromise the authority that a government offers on behalf of the citizens, such as mandate, you can't sell the place out.
So I would say to increase the dialogue, to do more analyses and to give us some time in terms of what we're looking at doing.
MR. GAUDET: One final question, I know the time is short. It was mentioned that Liscombe Lodge is one of your largest employers. Could I find out how many people it employs and at the same time, how many people Liscombe Lodge attracts in Guysborough County, especially people from outside the county? How many people come into the county through Liscombe Lodge? I'll close with that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If you don't have those exact figures, you could certainly forward them over to the committee and they will be made available to all committee members.
MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Gentlemen, welcome. I enjoyed your presentation. I represent the Eastern Shore riding, as some of you know. I'm a partner or neighbour to Mr. Chisholm.
Guysborough, Eastern Shore, No. 7 Highway, AESTA, tourism, we share a lot of the same concerns. It's interesting to hear and be informed of your plan to develop very rural areas. Well, here's my comment, not all municipal units are in the business of developing rural areas. As a matter of fact, some municipal units in Nova Scotia are putting strategies in place to deter development of rural areas, being the HRM, under the new Municipal Planning Strategy. As a provincial representative, I take opportunity and put a lot of energy in working with my constituency to provide new schools, new roads, tourism. On the other hand, the municipal units are putting plans in place and their main focus is to move people from the rural area, relocate them to the urban area, so that we can share services.
You know the Eastern Shore going down to the HRM in Ecum Secum, next to Jerry's boyhood home, they are developing cluster villages, no more interested in the old traditional family farms. Do you know what? In all due respect, when we talk about tourism, they don't go there just to see the ocean, or just to see the trees that are cut or not cut, they go to see the people, they go to experience the lives of the rural people.
I'll tell you, cluster systems is an urban approach and they're telling people from Ecum Secum, Moser River, from the Jeddores, from the Musquodoboit Valley, their philosophy is based on taking people, taking industry away from the rural area and putting it in Burnside, putting it in downtown Halifax. There is no one here to dispute what this
member is saying today, so it's my point to bring that up. Thank you for what you're doing, I'm aware of your work and I congratulate you, but just on the other side of you there is a cancer evolving . . .
MR. PYE: I wouldn't go so far as to say that.
MR. DOOKS: No, what's wrong with that word? I use that word to bring shock to this committee, attack, a death to the rural parts of my riding. So keep your energy up and good luck to you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ms. Massey, you have a quick point of clarification.
MS. MASSEY: Just a point of clarification. The honourable member opposite was referring to one of the questions I asked about funding. Actually the document I was looking at was from The ChronicleHerald, October 18, 2005, in which Roland Burton, who is a Village Commissioner, stated that our budget - and I think this is his quote or else it was Craig MacDonald who is the General Manager at Sherbrooke, saying: "'Our budget is being cut by the province' . . . explains Roly. 'Things are getting very, very tight. It costs $1.5 million a year to run Sherbrooke Village. The province provides a million dollar grant, but Roly says there's little or nothing forthcoming from nearby municipalities, which stand to benefit from whatever tourists the attraction generates.'" So the question I was looking for was, is the government going to be providing more money in 2006 and that's why I was asking about advertising, signage, this sort of thing. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're quickly running out of time and I had one question that I wanted to put to the presenters. As we all know, the only project going on in our offshore is hitting land in Goldboro. We're a one-trick show right now and you're it, so I'm curious in your presentation about the involvement of the provincial government. I'm wondering, Warden Hines, if you could tell me how many employees from the Department of Energy are located in the County of Guysborough, in light of the fact you are home to our only offshore project?
MR. LLOYD HINES: Zero.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let me finish by saying, and I hope my colleagues on the committee from the government side, it's hard to expect Sable to keep administrative jobs in Guysborough County, when the Province of Nova Scotia and its Energy Department don't see fit to have any of its own employees being kept in that county.
I agree with what you're saying about Sable and I think if the province showed a bit of leadership on that, it might be easier to convince Sable that they should be keeping administrative jobs there as well. That's certainly something I think our province can start
doing in the near future to address that. The Minister of Energy has made commitments on that and unfortunately, we haven't seen anything yet.
With that, allow me to thank our presenters for the presentation. If there are any follow-up questions, I'm sure committee members may communicate with you directly on that. I think, as Mr. Dooks has said, and all committee members have said, Guysborough certainly is a shining example of where municipalities can show leadership in their future, not only in the administration of your municipal duties, but you are certainly doing your area and our province a great service with your involvement in economic development for rural Nova Scotia, which certainly touches at the heart of all members here.
Again, thank you for your presentation. Best wishes to you and those projects, if they can come through for Guysborough, they will not only benefit your area, they will benefit our entire province. So keep up the good work and good luck to you. Thank you.
Members, before you leave we have our annual report that requires the signature of the members of the standing committee. I would ask you to come to see Darlene to have your signature on that report before leaving.
With that, we do not have any meetings scheduled. If I could have a motion from the committee, we have nothing scheduled between now and Christmas. My intention would be to schedule our next meeting in the new year, if that has the support of the committee?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:01 a.m.]