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
Mrs. Darlene Henry
Legislative Committee Clerk
Nova Scotia Business Inc.
Mr. Peter MacAskill
Director of Corporate Services
Mr. George Reid
Manager of Industrial Properties
HALIFAX, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2005
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Michel Samson
MR. CHAIRMAN (Mr. Brooke Taylor): I call this committee meeting to order. I am Mr. Brooke Taylor and for the purpose of today's meeting I will act as chairman. I'm substituting for our regular chairman, Mr. Michel Samson. Today, as witnesses, we have with us Mr. Peter MacAskill, Director of Corporate Services, NSBI and Mr. George Reid, Manager of Industrial Properties, NSBI. We will now introduce our committee members.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Of course, our very able and capable clerk is Darlene Henry. Good morning, Darlene. With that I will turn the floor over to our witnesses.
MR. PETER MACASKILL: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Peter MacAskill, I am the Director of Corporate Services at Nova Scotia Business Inc. With me today from my corporate services team is Mr. George Reid, Manager of Real Estate. Thank you for the invitation to speak before the committee today as you look at industrial parks in Nova Scotia and the related opportunities and challenges. Let me start by outlining NSBI's mandate.
As the province's business development agency we work with Nova Scotia companies to help them grow. The overall objective is to work with growth oriented companies at home and abroad that have a strong business case. Here are the methods we use: investment attraction strategies; business advisory services with six offices located throughout the province; financial services; and export development programs. Our focus includes working with companies in Nova Scotia's foundation industries and we're focused on opportunities in key growth sectors: energy; information technology; learning industries; manufacturing; and life sciences.
Since its inception, NSBI's work has helped companies create and maintain more than 12,000 jobs. That employment generates additional annual provincial taxes. During 2004-05, our investment in growing companies is expected to generate an annual return on investment of about $23 million. We're proud of the growth of these successful companies and what they've accomplished, and we're proud to have played a role during the four years of our existence.
Regardless of job title, everyone working at NSBI is a business developer and each person understands the importance that real estate can play when seeking or maximizing opportunities. On the NSBI team my colleague, Mr. Reid, has the most direct duties tied to real estate, but land is a tool that many use.
A business advisory team member in Lunenburg or Pictou County can look for opportunities that include industrial park land. The same is true for an NSBI executive working to attract the next global manufacturer to the province, and there are financial services projects that use industrial park land in the mix of tools for business growth.
Mr. Chairman, as I'm sure you and the committee members know, the development of many of Nova Scotia's industrial parks predates NSBI. Since the 1960s, the province has been involved in the development of industrial parks throughout Nova Scotia. The former Industrial Estates Limited developed the initial parks, and other parks continued to be developed through various partnerships since then. These partnerships have sometimes been federal-provincial, provincial-municipal, federal-municipal. All told, there are dozens of industrial parks throughout Nova Scotia. Some of these fall under NSBI's mandate as caretaker. For other parks, the municipalities oversee them.
NSBI's work is always with community partners like the RDAs, which are the active promoters of the industrial parks. Occasionally businesses and communities deem it appropriate to pursue industrial real estate for economic growth. It's NSBI's process to handle properties at fair market value, if industrial park land is sold. In our role as stewards of the properties, we endeavour to develop industries, industrial interests in coordination with the municipalities. For example, in collaboration with municipal partners in the Strait region, Anadarko Canada is developing a liquified natural gas plant at the Bear Head Industrial Park. It's a good example of NSBI working with communities. The result being, a strategic piece of property is being used for industrial purposes with significant economic impacts to local communities and to the province.
I hope this brief history gives you context around NSBI and its involvement with industrial parks in the province. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Does Mr. Reid have some opening comments? No? Then we'll move right along to questions put by members, but before we do that I would like to welcome to our team, Charlie Parker, the member for Pictou West - good morning, Charlie - and Bill Dooks, the member for Eastern Shore.
Who wants to begin the first round? We'll try to allocate five to seven minutes to each member, keeping in mind that it's a beautiful day out there. Howard, do you want to start? (Interruptions) We'll move right along then, Howard, to your colleague, Ms. More.
MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Chairman, I think the province has an interest in a couple of industrial parks in my constituency, the Woodside Marine Terminal, along the Woodside ferry, and the Woodside Industrial Park, of which InNOVAcorp is part. I read that there may be some plan afoot to take the balance of the industrial park and turn it over to InNOVAcorp for high-tech industries. I'm just wondering, is there an update on that? What do you know about that plan?
MR. MACASKILL: Yes, we have dealt with InNOVAcorp with respect to the land that is available up in behind, around where their facilities are. We were able to accomplish a transfer of a bit of property to them, along with our maintaining some property closer to where the industrial park is. We're maintaining the property there, and then down by the wharf.
MS. MORE: With the new interchange going over to Baker Drive, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for the unused land. Are there plans to service the unused part? Are there any plans as to what might be going in there, and how it would be dedicated, to what use?
MR. GEORGE REID: It's my understanding that we have in fact completed the transfer of approximately 100 acres of land that is presently undeveloped to InNOVAcorp. They have developed conceptual plans, and they're in the planning stage to develop a knowledge and science park for all the undeveloped land.
MS. MORE: So what's the status? How much remaining undeveloped land is there, then?
MR. REID: Roughly 100 acres, and that has all been transferred to InNOVAcorp.
MS. MORE: So there is no balance? The rest of it has gone?
MR. REID: The rest is all going to be devoted to that.
MS. MORE: In the parks that you're involved with, is there any sort of buffer provided between those that have neighbouring residential areas and the industrial parks?
MR. REID: It's my understanding - I've seen some of the initial concepts of the work that InNOVAcorp has done - they have an engineering firm, and that would be a natural thing to plan for. How much planning they have done for that, I don't know. I do remember that way back there was concern by the residential area, the trailer area there, an area in behind the research foundation, there was concern expressed then. That goes back a lot of years. So I assume that's still there, and provision for that would have to be made.
MS. MORE: So as far as you know there's no requirement that they consult with the community. Would I have to approach them directly to find out what their plans are in terms of that?
MR. MACASKILL: It's a plan, and InNOVAcorp is progressing forward. As far as requirement, I know that at NSBI when we are doing any type of development or zoning, that type of thing, we have a process where we deal with the local partners. Generally that would include the municipality representatives as well, from a zoning perspective. But, yes, it would be InNOVAcorp that would be . . .
MS. MORE: So even in the process of transferring the 100 acres to InNOVAcorp, there was no discussion of building in a consultation, or making sure that the community felt that any impact of that could be discussed with them? The land was just more or less handed over?
MR. REID: Not by us, as a directive to them. They, acting as a developer, the same as we would have - we wouldn't be viewed differently in the eyes of the municipality than any other developer. So that phase of the park development, to my understanding, would have to be subject to municipal approval and probably a municipal hearing. Reasonable.
MS. MORE: There's a huge water lot that belongs to the province in front of the Nova Scotia Hospital land. Are you involved with the potential use of that water lot at all?
MR. MACASKILL: No.
MS. MORE: And the harbourfront that it borders on?
MR. MACASKILL: No, not NSBI.
MS. MORE: My last question, Mr. Chairman, regarding the Ocean Industries Park down by the ferry terminal, is that completely committed to current operations, or is there any additional land there for development?
MR. MACASKILL: There are a couple of pieces of property that are still available. That's up around the top part - I'm not sure if that's exactly where you mean. There's the wharf area itself, which we, through our property supervisor, which is Transportation and
Public Works - we use them, they have people on staff on the location - they look after the licensing of that area and make sure that it's available or utilized for the intended purposes. Does that answer your question?
MS. MORE: I'm just wondering, what potential or increased use might there be on the wharf side?
MR. MACASKILL: On the wharf itself?
MS. MORE: Yes.
MR. MACASKILL: The wharf is there and is equipped for the industrial park.
MS. MORE: Do you have any specific plans for increasing the use of that property, or is it as the market demands come forward?
MR. MACASKILL: Mostly it's as market demands come forward. We do work a little bit with the Department of Energy, as it relates to that, making sure that we're ready.
MS. MORE: But there's no proactive planning with any particular company going on at present?
MR. MACASKILL: Well, I can't say no to that, there are always companies coming in and inquiring about the wharf and its availability. Yes, people have called recently with respect to that. On top of that, the Department of Energy has also contacted us with respect to some offshore type of work, from a readiness perspective.
MS. MORE: Yes. But nothing has been finalized or firmed up as to any increased use or change of use?
MR. MACASKILL: As in signing leases or right of use?
MS. MORE: Yes.
MR. MACASKILL: Nothing beyond right now, what's there now.
MS. MORE: Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Marilyn.
Mr. Wayne Gaudet.
MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm looking for some information on these parks. I heard from your presentation, we started building these back in - it goes back to the 1960s, thereabouts. How many parks do we have throughout Nova Scotia, roughly?
MR. MACASKILL: Not just NSBI controlled?
MR. GAUDET: Yes.
MR. MACASKILL: I've seen the list. In fact, there was a list, I think, in some of the briefing materials with the parks, and I think it's close to 50, is the number that we use back at the office.
MR. GAUDET: So how many are owned by the province?
MR. MACASKILL: NSBI has control over 15 of them.
MR. GAUDET: By control, you mean what?
MR. MACASKILL: We own.
MR. GAUDET: We own.
MR. MACASKILL: Yes.
MR. GAUDET: We operate.
MR. MACASKILL: Yes, we maintain.
MR. GAUDET: Could we have a list of those 15 parks at a later date?
MR. MACASKILL: Sure.
MR. GAUDET: Okay. I'm just curious, you know, how much does it cost to run these 15 parks?
MR. MACASKILL: Right now, the arrangement that we have, both Transportation and Public Works, and Nova Scotia Business Inc. share the costs with respect to running the parks. Transportation and Public Works, as I mentioned, have people who act as property supervisors. I don't actually have access to their budget when it comes to it but we, at NSBI, also look after more of the capital type of expenditures. Over the two or three years since I have been here, I would guess it's probably neighbouring around $1 million a year. That's
on the expenditure side. Then there are revenues as well associated with some leases and when we are able to sell property.
MR. GAUDET: Has the cost risen over the past five years or has it pretty well remained stable to run these 15 parks?
MR. MACASKILL: Certain costs have gone up but there are - as far as the capital expenditures go - we've done our best to try to keep it on a schedule so that it doesn't rise significantly.
MR. GAUDET: What are the most successful parks that we have?
MR. MACASKILL: The most successful?
MR. GAUDET: Yes. Are they located in the city, or are they located in Sydney or in Yarmouth? I suspect the location would probably have something to do with it.
MR. MACASKILL: Yes. I mean, from a vacancy perspective, obviously some of the parks in metro are filling up a little more quickly. From recent activity I would say it has been pretty even, as far as the work that we do.
MR. GAUDET: Is government running parks that are not profitable?
MR. MACASKILL: Again, I don't have the Transportation and Public Works budgeting, their information. I'm not exactly sure how it lines up on a park-to-park basis?
MR. GAUDET: Do we know how much the province is taking in annually in rentals?
MR. MACASKILL: Again, the arrangement that we have is where they look after the rental, that income, and then the expenses from a maintenance perspective. From what I've been told by my colleagues at Transportation and Public Works, it has been at or close to a break-even.
MR. GAUDET: Okay. I guess, for clarification for all of us here in the committee, Transportation and Public Works looks after the rental, lease and expenses?
MR. MACASKILL: Yes, most of the expenses.
MR. GAUDET: NSBI looks after what part?
MR. MACASKILL: We own the parks so we would look after - when I say they look after leases, we actually approve and sign the leases but they look after collecting the income and expenses. So we would approve and sign leases, we would be the body that would deal with purchase and sales, and dealing with capital expenditures.
MR. GAUDET: Okay. Purchase and sale. Are we still in the market for opening more parks in the province?
MR. MACASKILL: We haven't been, no.
MR. GAUDET: We haven't. So are we closing or are we selling real estate that the province owns?
MR. MACASKILL: Yes. The idea behind the industrial parks is to develop them, to have spots so that secondary industry can go in and buy that property. That has been the case, I think, pretty much, since the beginning, since the parks have been developed.
MR. GAUDET: Let's look at the last five years. How much of that property has been sold? Half, a quarter?
MR. MACASKILL: Sorry?
MR. GAUDET: How much? You know, just general. Are we looking at half of the real estate that the province owns has been sold?
MR. MACASKILL: Probably not, from a size perspective, I don't think. I think we've done between, what, 10, 15 sales a year, George?
MR. REID: On an acreage basis, we have a lot of acreage. For instance, Debert has between 3,000 and 4,000 acres but they're not really all developed, the big difference is between developed land and undeveloped land. We haven't actually developed land for a good number of years. Maybe about a dozen years. So we have been selling land and not replacing it. Land is starting to become a scarce commodity in the metro area. It's starting to be.
MR. GAUDET: Yes. So the prices must have gone up then for real estate?
MR. REID: Yes, over the years they have, yes.
MR. GAUDET: So NSBI must be making money? No?
MR. MACASKILL: I think the last fiscal purchase and sales were just south of a $1 million in the last couple of years that I have been here.
MR. GAUDET: Well, my final question, have there been any parks that have closed in the province recently, looking at the last five years?
MR. REID: I'm not aware. No, there is one park where we sold the final piece of land this Summer.
MR. GAUDET: Okay.
MR. MACASKILL: And that doesn't mean the park is closed but it means that we have no property available in that for sale. But, no, I'm not aware of any that have closed.
MR. GAUDET: Okay. All right, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Wayne. Just to our witnesses, the request from Mr. Gaudet was a list of the industrial parks in the province that NSBI has an interest in, I suppose. With that, we will move along to Mr. Dooks.
MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman. A couple of questions, as the representative for the Eastern Shore. Two parks, Chezzetcook and Musquodoboit Harbour, and I still have a very live interest in the Sheet Harbour port which is in another riding but so very important to us as a community.
Can you give me an overview, quickly - and I know time is important here this morning - on your vision for the Musquodoboit-Chezzetcook and the Port of Sheet Harbour, where it is now, what plans you have to move it ahead, and if those plans are not there, what can we do to create interest in providing more activity around these parks? Should we be looking to divest ourselves of that and sell them to another group that would be interested? I said a whole lot there but let's talk about Musquodoboit first. Where are we with Musquodoboit Industrial Park?
MR. MACASKILL: Well, at NSBI, where we concentrate our efforts is, we work with businesses that are looking for opportunities in growth in various parts throughout the province. So from a general perspective, our investment attraction executives, our financial services team and export development team would work with many companies throughout the province, seeking opportunities. Then the way that we work is more on a referral basis, as far as getting clients in to see George with respect to buying, purchasing lands, that sort of thing. On top of that we work with our business advisory team and the RDAs that do most of the promotion when it comes to the parks themselves.
MR. DOOKS: Fred Terrio works from that.
MR. MACASKILL: Yes.
MR. DOOKS: Mr. Chairman, I must say, anytime I refer anyone to Fred particularly, he's quick to jump and set up meetings with people who show an interest. I guess why I'm asking the question is to see if there's any type of promotion to go out and encourage people to move their business within the parks, I guess that's where I'm at a bit of a loss. So it's more or less done through a mechanism of the RDAs, or your MLA, or your councillor, or other business people, so that's sort of how that takes place, is it?
MR. MACASKILL: Yes, we've traditionally relied upon the local communities, the local RDAs, our business advisory team, that type of thing, from a park promotion point of view.
MR. DOOKS: With the Musquodoboit Harbour one it's on a J-Class road or a secondary road access there and we've lost a couple of opportunities from the emergency services because they couldn't locate there because the roads wouldn't necessarily be done, through policy of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. We have some issues like that we have to work around.
Chezzetcook seems to be doing fairly well. I think there is an issue about lots not being serviced, but I understand if someone shows an interest, then you service that particular lot. These are some little things I just want to point out so that you understand.
The Sheet Harbour port, that has been an issue for me and also for you, Mr. Chairman, from time to time. To me it has great potential, but I understand the lack of infrastructure to that port has been a deterrent for business to locate there. Has there been any interest in new business to that port lately, or any referrals there? What's going on with the Sheet Harbour port?
MR. MACASKILL: Yes, we've been talking to . . .
MR. DOOKS: No big announcements coming? That's what I'm looking for.
MR. MACASKILL: I can't say that we have any big announcements or anything imminent but we definitely have been talking to people with respect to various aspects of that park, both with the port itself and some of the properties in behind.
MR. DOOKS: In closing, I do thank you for your interest in our parks. I suggest to you if anyone else is looking to locate a business and it just doesn't fit in some other park in Nova Scotia, we're open and ready to accept new business and certainly that has the support of the MLA.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.
MS. JUDY STREATCH: Gentlemen, when you gave your introduction I was sitting here thinking of what we traditionally would conjure up when you think about an industrial park. I think about the beginning stages of Burnside, for instance, or some of the more industrial. When I look at some of the industrial parks around the province today - and it won't take a rocket scientist to figure out which ones I'm talking about - I see that there's more of a retail shift to some of those industrial parks. Is there indeed a mandate or is there a specific zoning, or a specific rule or regulation? Are we going to see more of this retail and industrial blending?
MR. MACASKILL: Certainly from NSBI's perspective, there's no mandate on doing that. As the parks develop and mature there tends to be a local group who will be partially responsible as an overseer to see that it develops within the plans of the community. It generally will include a councillor, that type of thing. An example of this would be in Sackville, we own the remaining lands in the Sackville Industrial Park, so George is part of a group that oversees new proposals, new proponents who may be going into that, reviewing that, and seeing that it fits within the plans of that park. So there's no mandate, each park is a bit unique on its own in the way that it would expand or grow.
MS. STREATCH: So there's no specific zoning, rules or regulations that retail needs to be separate from industrial?
MR. MACASKILL: The municipalities themselves would have rules with respect to that, so yes, it's zoned a certain way and if there's a change, obviously, that would have to go through its normal process for that to happen, and a case would have to be proven that it should be changed. From our perspective, we continue to want to see the best opportunities for that park, which means the secondary industry, which means those businesses that will provide benefit to the local economy and the province.
MS. STREATCH: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: Good morning, gentlemen. I come from the North Shore, Pictou County and I'm looking through the book on industrial parks in Pictou County. It mentions Trenton Industrial Park and Pictou Industrial Park but probably our largest industrial park is Stellarton, and I don't see mention of that in the book. Is there some particular reason it's not in our folder or maybe I've missed it, I just can't seem to find it?
MR. MACASKILL: I'm not sure how your folder did come, I know the Stellarton Industrial Park is one that we own, that we do maintain.
MR. PARKER: It's owned by the province or NSBI?
MR. MACASKILL: NSBI, yes.
MR. PARKER: Can you give me an update on how that park is doing? How large is it? How many business are located there? Are there any recent land sales or leases? How are things going in Stellarton?
MR. REID: I've been involved with Stellarton for a dozen years, something like that, and its level of activity, in my opinion, has peaked. There has not been a new business there for at least two years. Our current activity is pretty much restricted to the comings and goings of the tenants at the incubator mall, which we maintain and operate. There is a fair bit of undeveloped land - I believe it's on the Westville side - probably in excess of 100 acres, and that could be developed but probably wouldn't be unless the demand identified itself. There probably are five to six acres of land that could be sold fairly quickly if need be, but there hasn't been a whole lot of demand.
MR. PARKER: This industrial park has a history going back to the days of Industrial Estates Limited in the 1960s, at least. One of the largest tenants in there had been Clairtone, which is famous - or infamous - for its history, what has gone on there - unfortunately it didn't fly. I think Sears had taken over that building for a time and I believe at the present time Neenah Paper is storing some product there from time to time. That's an absolutely huge building. Is there any interest in that building, other than perhaps as a rental, at the present time? Is there anything happening with that particular building?
MR. MACASKILL: Not to my knowledge but if there were, it would be falling to the role of the regional development agency. I think the town took ownership of the building - did it not? - we haven't owned it. We never took ownership of the Clairtone building, I'm quite sure the town owns it
MR. PARKER: Perhaps so. Obviously, it's not getting its highest and best use at the present time, it would be great to see some industry or business come in there. I guess I'll switch it around to, in general, what is the role of NSBI in our industrial parks? You mentioned this one has been sold to the town or maybe the Town of Stellarton is controlling the whole industrial park, but where does NSBI fit in and where does the local RDA fit in, or the town?
MR. MACASKILL: NSBI maintains it, we're the caretaker of the property, so from a promotion perspective it has generally been the RDAs that have done that. Then, NSBI's main business development groups or investment attraction group, our export development group and our business advisory team speak with the local communities on seeking out opportunities for individual parks, individual buildings and whatnot.
MR. PARKER: Okay. When a business is interested in locating in a particular industrial park, do they buy the land or do they lease the land?
MR. MACASKILL: Most of the times they will buy the land from us.
MR. PARKER: Okay. If I have time, Mr. Chairman, I want to ask a couple of questions about the industrial park in the Town of Pictou. It is mentioned in our book here. I understand it is owned by the town. Not by NSBI but by the town itself. Sales are administered through the Town Clerk, it mentions here. My understanding is that one of the major drawbacks to future expansions in that particular park is lack of water. There is just not enough volume of water. The Pictou Advocate has certainly expanded there recently but I am told by them and others that there is just not sufficient water to handle more businesses. Are you familiar with that or are there any plans, perhaps, to address that problem?
MR. MACASKILL: I'm not familiar with it, I'm sorry.
MR. PARKER: Okay. Is that something perhaps you could investigate, or see whose responsibility it would be to get more water, the town or NSBI?
MR. MACASKILL: We could certainly talk to Mr. Fred Terrio, who is the Manager of our Business Advisory Group. He has someone, Lynn Coffin, who actually works in that region.
MR. PARKER: Yes, I know Lynn.
MR. MACASKILL: You know Lynn? Okay. So, certainly, yes, we could talk to Lynn about that and see whether or not that is something which is on the radar of the town or the business community, in general.
MR. PARKER: Okay. Finally, do you know, in that particular industrial park, is there any interest in further lots? Is there anything happening there, other than the expansion of the Pictou Advocate?
MR. MACASKILL: I'm not aware of it.
MR. REID: No, that would be the realm of the RDA, very much so.
MR. PARKER: And the town, itself?
MR. REID: And the town.
MR. PARKER: Right. Okay, thank you, gentlemen.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Parker. Just a couple of quick questions, if I can, for our guests. Can you give us the names of the parks that you own and operate in the Halifax Regional Municipality?
MR. MACASKILL: Sure. In Halifax Regional Municipality we own Atlantic Acres Industrial Park, Bedford Industrial Park, Eastern Shore Industrial Park in Chezzetcook, Musquodoboit Harbour Industrial Park, Sackville Industrial Park, Sheet Harbour Industrial Park and the Woodside Industrial Park.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Now, you don't have any interest or any responsibility with the Aerotech Park outside of the Halifax International Airport?
MR. MACASKILL: No, we don't, from an ownership perspective. However, we do have one of our business development officers who has that industry as his main area of concentration. He deals quite extensively with that industry, its association and the businesses that reside there, today and hopefully in the future.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, for several years we have heard complaints, I guess, in the past that there is just essentially too much government involvement and we have too many agencies, boards and commissions relative to industrial parks. Do you feel at the present time that we still have too much government? I don't mean provincial, but do we have, in general, too much bureaucracy? Like, when you named the parks that you have an interest in, own and operate, just in metro alone, I could see a lot of competition there. I thought through amalgamation and some other measures that we were kind of lessening the red tape. I trust, maybe, we have but is there still, from your perspective - I mean, you're on the ground, so to speak, as far as I am concerned, at least. Is there an area that we should be looking at, or other levels of government should be looking at in further streamlining?
I can see or kind of envision, just from what you're imparting here today, that we still have a fair amount of government involvement in the whole process of a tenant going from being out of business to actually getting into business and opening their doors. Do you share any of those concerns or are we very efficient as we are?
MR. MACASKILL: I can speak from NSBI's perspective. NSBI sees itself very much as being the business-focused organization, so we deal with the businesses and then stay on top of who the local landowners may be.
Everybody in the organization has access to George, with respect to the parks that we control and maintain, along with having an understanding of who the people may be in a particular park throughout the province, everywhere, so that they can get clients there. From that perspective I see it as working quite well for our business developers. From a bureaucracy or competition perspective, which I think you may have mentioned, I don't see it.
A lot of the parks that we have control over in HRM, at least in the city, are getting close to being full, so there's no competition, that type of thing. Our efforts continue to be with seeking out new growth opportunities for companies, so that we can hopefully bring clients to George for the parks that he looks after, and bring clients to the others, whether it be the municipalities or whomever has those parks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I won't say case in point but really just as a concern - and Bill alluded to it earlier - the Sheet Harbour park, at what capacity, in terms of square miles or footage, are they operating, for example, keeping in mind that they're a Halifax Regional Municipality park as well? We frequently hear from our constituents out there, especially from businesses, that maybe - and I'm just throwing this out - it's really hard when you're dealing with Atlantic Acres, for example, in its proximity to the waterfront and things of that nature. I'm just wondering what capacity is Sheet Harbour operating at?
MR. REID: I think maybe just to set the picture a little bit back, Economic Development or the corporations associated with it invested and built the basic infrastructure at Sheet Harbour, but we have not been proactive in promoting it, except to individual businesses and we've worked with individual businesses. The park, with its wharf, was around 110 to 112 acres, something like that; the 12 acres came from when we infilled for the wharf, so we have about 45 acres left. The big pipe-coating yard is still there, we're still hopeful. Land is a strong suit down there, we don't own directly more than about 45 acres. We have depended on the regional development agencies to promote and we more react to their efforts and we deal more with the companies trying to locate.
MR. MACASKILL: The proactive part of our organization, NSBI, is to go out and seek the companies and find out what the best fit is for that. Along those lines, what we've done is concentrated on certain sectors, as outlined in our . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: But the pipe yard, for example, that you mentioned, that's a huge piece of real estate itself. It's largely inactive at present, if not inactive completely, but it wouldn't be held in any type of abeyance that would preclude it, so to speak, from being developed further? It's pretty well undeveloped now.
MR. REID: In fact the 40 acres that we do have there is under an option agreement, there's still hope that the offshore activities would indicate its future use. We actually have sold an option agreement to an offshore company and that is scheduled to expire around June. The company itself is actively looking for a way to put that land to good use because they're paying us money to have that option, but if they don't find something it will expire.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, it's not generating any employment, that's for darn sure. Thank you.
The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.
MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: I'm a little confused this morning, it doesn't take much sometimes. You keep talking about owning and operating these parks on one hand and on the other hand you're saying you're not leasing the land, you're selling the land. Can you explain to me how you're going to own and operate these parks as you're selling it off?
MR. MACASKILL: The intent, when the parks were developed, was for the province to develop property to have it ready in an industrially zoned area, to have access, and then to have industries come in and occupy it and use the property for industrial and economic benefits.
MR. THERIAULT: But you're selling that property off. How can you own it if you sell something?
MR. MACASKILL: We wouldn't own it after that, so you're right, there's an industrial park and once the property is sold, we only own the property left over.
MR. THERIAULT: But once you sell them all, it's gone, Nova Scotia doesn't own it anymore. In the municipality, I believe they lease the properties with 99-year leases, in the Digby area, I'm pretty sure of that. In the end, Nova Scotia is not going to own these parks anymore, when you're done selling, right?
MR. MACASKILL: Once we sell it, yes, we won't be the owners.
MR. THERIAULT: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any further questions for our guests? As chairman, and on behalf of the committee, I want to thank our guests for coming in this morning. If you have any summary comments we would welcome those. If not, we have some other committee business and future dates I would like to discuss with our members.
MR. MACASKILL: None, other than to thank you for the opportunity to come and speak with you today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thanks for coming in. Committee members, our next meeting date is October 18th and the issue on the docket is the twinning of Highway No. 101 and other highway construction. As well, I wanted to raise an issue regarding a possible future witness and that would be Marine Atlantic and a representative from CBRM who has been designated to deal with a federal consultant's report dealing with the future of Marine Atlantic in North Sydney. I think your colleague, Michel, has met with some of the Marine Atlantic folks, I know that some of our members have. I can't speak for the NDP, obviously,
but we always try to build in flexibility with this committee so that we're not so steadfast that we can't try to accommodate something that's timely.
I'm wondering if maybe members would consult with their colleagues, or whoever appropriate. We've been asked if they could come in and explain the dire consequences, if you will, should Marine Atlantic lose that drop-trailer service component, as was recommended by a consultant. I'm just throwing it out as to whether or not there is any thought to bring them in as witnesses and maybe we can give them a hand. It is primarily a federal issue but . . .
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: That was really my question, do we have any power over any of this at all, or are we just looking at consequences?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think it's multi-faceted, Howard, but without a doubt, it is a federal issue. Many times federal issues - as Judy would attest to - need a little bit of direction and counsel, so to speak. As I said, you can talk to Michel, I know he has talked to some of the folks in North Sydney. They had requested, through myself and Cecil Clarke, that they be given an opportunity to come in and where it is federal, we felt it more appropriate to share it with committee members. Maybe you want to do a tad bit of research, Howard, and you can get back to us.
MR. EPSTEIN: Just because it's federal, I don't object to it merely on that basis. It's entirely possible that federal economic decisions will have lots of impact on us here and we have to pay attention to that. What I wondered was where we stand with our scheduling. I'm afraid I don't have my notes with me at the moment. Apart from October 18th, do we have other topics that we're looking to schedule at the moment?
MRS. DARLENE HENRY (Legislative Committee Clerk): That's all we have.
MR. EPSTEIN: That's the only one at the moment?
MRS. HENRY: I was going to ask for an organizational meeting to establish more at this point.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, that's a good idea. I think we should all turn our minds, as caucuses, to what we want to see on the agenda. As for the Marine Atlantic item, is there a tentative date that you're thinking of for this?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, Gordon MacLeod, who is a former manager with Marine Atlantic and now a CBRM Councillor, has been designated, I guess, by CBRM, through Council, to represent their interests regarding the concern. Gerald - I can't remember his last name - there are three unions, actually - Howard, you probably know their names better than I - that are involved with Marine Atlantic. Management is under union too, apparently.
The reps for each of the unions appropriate and the CBRM designate would welcome an opportunity to come before this committee, because apparently there are probably 60 to 70 jobs that are hanging in the balance or by a thread. But I would invite you to, if you haven't - you obviously have access to a lot of research and maybe it's not something you would want to say yes to if you're not apprised of the issue. But we've had some discussions with the Energy Minister, the member for Cape Breton North, and we were approached and asked - I don't know, Michel may have more information on it, so maybe we should defer to Michel, as chairman.
MR. GAUDET: Well, why don't we defer this until October 18th.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure.
MR. EPSTEIN: Or perhaps before. I mean, this is one of the items where we may all be able to consult in our caucuses a little more extensively and come to an agreement by exchange of e-mail or phone before then. Perhaps we could communicate through the committee clerk, Darlene Henry.
MRS. HENRY: Sure.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. There's another councillor who's also involved there but, I mean, those names, we can furnish you with those. Cecil has all the names at his fingertips.
In the local area, it's receiving quite a bit of attention, I'll tell you, and they are really afraid. That town basically considers that - with justification - a major employer.
MR. EPSTEIN: So we'll all go away and get comments back about Marine Atlantic as soon as possible, and perhaps also a longer list of potential items for the committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maybe we could have an organizational - are you suggesting we have it before October 18th, Wayne, or following that?
MR. GAUDET: I would say following October 18th.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Well, we can share information on that Marine Atlantic beforehand. Okay, do we have anything else from any committee members?
It's just before 10:00 a.m. A motion to adjourn would be in order.
MR. PARKER: I so move.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 9:53 a.m.]