MR. CHAIRMAN: We will begin this afternoon's hearing. I would like to welcome Mr. Frank Anderson, the Vice President of the Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Agencies. Is that correct?
MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Please note, Mr. Chairman, from Yarmouth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: From Yarmouth, yes. I was going to leave that to you. Perhaps you could reiterate that when you introduce yourself. Maybe we could start with Mr. Chipman.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: John Chataway is substituting today for our colleague Bill Dooks from the Eastern Shore and the NDP caucus as of now are taking their place. We would ask perhaps the NDP members of the committee to please identify themselves and if they are substituting for another regular member, they could indicate that too. Thank you.
MR. JOHN HOLM: John Holm, and yes I am substituting for Frank Corbett.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Howard Epstein, Halifax Chebucto.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, Frank, the floor is all yours.
MR. FRANK ANDERSON: We were asked today to present to you, and I believe you all have a package, so my presentation will be very short and then go to questions and answers. The presentation was to talk concerning the Nova Scotia Association of Regional Development Authorities and where they are and where they have been. The association itself came into existence in 1999 and under the Societies Act we are registered. We have 13 fully operational RDAs as members of this association and the original RDAs themselves, they came into play around 1994 and then the rest fell into line. I know in ours, the South West Shore Development Authority which is Shelburne and Yarmouth Counties, representing the eight municipalities there, we came into play in 1995.
Our presentation goes on to compare ourselves to what is happening with our sister provinces in New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland. We are the only one of the four Atlantic Provinces that have an equal system whereby the core funding for the RDAs is shared equally one-third/one-third/one-third, municipal/federal/provincial, which is the first time, and I have been in this business since about 1984, that that has taken place. From the communities' point of view, the municipal point of view, it makes us equal partners, equal partners with the dollars and cash, equal say and so forth and from rural Nova Scotia it truly makes us feel that we are part of the system instead of having the federal end or the province usually paying all the bills as other agencies. If you look into New Brunswick, there are only three municipal units partaking in this where we have 90-some per cent of the municipal units in Nova Scotia partaking. In Newfoundland there is no municipal participation in Newfoundland and/or in P.E.I..
Nova Scotia currently provides the largest annual contribution of $1.4 million and they partner this with ACOA. New Brunswick's split is a 50/50 split and Newfoundland is a 70 per cent federal, 30 per cent provincial and again no municipal involvement in the funding formula. We believe the Nova Scotia model is the better of the models. We have shared this. We have gone to several conferences over the last 8 years to 10 years, on community economic development across this country and we have met with other groups through different organizations and they truly look at the Nova Scotia model as being the right model, as being an equal model and all players - federal, provincial and municipal - having the same risk and the same funding formulae.
Over the past while we have gone through an evaluation process. Prior to coming to the regional development authorities I was with an industrial commission and we had quite a few of those industrial commissions in the province. A lot of them got melted up into the RDAs. Some did not but we have gone through an evaluation process. We went through a province-wide evaluation, as we talk about here, when an outside source was hired to evaluate what we were doing - good, bad or indifferent. Then, at the request of the Minister of Economic Development, we actually went through another process in 2000-01 where we were asked to look and see and prove whether our activities contributed to the growth of the economy of Nova Scotia and the RDAs did rise collectively to that challenge. As stated here,
the evaluation concluded that the RDAs are effective and credible organizations that have a significant impact upon the Nova Scotia economy.
Each year we provide a business plan to the province, municipal units, and the federal government through ACOA to say where we are, where we were and where we are going and provide budgets and so forth. We all provide audited financial statements and so forth at the end of the year and now we are into a process of ongoing evaluation to see that we continue to stay on target and not just start a program and find out you get stuck in that program. We all, in different parts of the province, look at different features of our economy to see how we can change it and make it better.
Our long-term funding, we were funded under the former Canada-Nova Scotia Cooperation Agreement. That is now ceasing or coming to an end. We are funded for this year. We continue to look with the federal and provincial government and the municipal units for an ongoing process for long-term funding for the core operating and we look through the association to secure that.
Again, under the accountability process, we do an annual audit, we do an annual business plan, we do quarterly reports, internal reports and an evaluation which we are looking now to do a formal evaluation process every two years.
In summary, community economic development is a process of community empowerment that creates an extensive set of highly effective and motivated partnerships at the local and regional community levels able to positively influence their economic future from within. The scope of the RDAs' work goes well beyond the confines of strict economic analysis with concentration solely on job and income creation over the short term. RDAs provide a strategic assessment of the long-term effects of forging partnerships and building capacity at the local and regional community levels to positively influence the development dynamic from within. The process has worked well for the RDAs. Each RDA continues to make sure, with time, they function under the association and collaborate as a single voice. The potential for positive economic impact throughout Nova Scotia is unprecedented.
I believe you have all read that and seen it and so forth. Now comes questions and answers.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, committee members, perhaps we could open this up for some questions for Mr. Anderson. Mr. Boudreau, I guess, would like to begin.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, I will try to jump in, hopefully. You indicated Nova Scotia had the better model.
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, in my personal opinion and most of the opinions of other economic development groups across the country looking specifically at Ontario and the West. The best model by virtue of the fact that it is a regional model, it is not just community against community, you are taking regions as such and, in turn, with the funding formula, it is one-third/one-third/one-third. Whereas in the past, it was always a federal or provincial program. A program would open up, you would go in and try to get the funding and so forth, it would be all federal, part provincial or whatever, but rarely would you see the municipal, the grassroots communities, get themselves involved. In this one here there has been a buy-in to one-third of the core funding by the municipal units which is sort of unprecedented in our province, to have that right across, from Cape Breton to Yarmouth.
MR. BOUDREAU: Are all the RDAs in the province included in your association?
MR. ANDERSON: All the RDAs in the province are included except for the Greater Halifax Partnership - they are not a member of the association. The Greater Halifax Partnership is outside, it is not a member.
MR. BOUDREAU: And that is through its own choosing.
MR. ANDERSON: That is its own choosing, yes, exactly.
MR. BOUDREAU: You feel, of course, that RDAs are very successful.
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, sir.
MR. BOUDREAU: Can you just touch on some of the success that you think . . .
MR. ANDERSON: I will try not to touch on anyone else's because I think we have documented that all for you from various projects throughout it. I look at the South West Shore Development Authority, when we came together for Yarmouth and Shelburne, we had the eight municipal units, these are units that in Shelburne County they did their thing, we did our thing and they weren't really brought together. From our chairman's point of view, our greatest accomplishment in the last five years is to get those eight municipal units, number one, to work as one, to think regionally instead of specifically of their own unit, and to understand, share and rejoice in the fact that if one municipal unit got a new plant or a new business or whatever it was good for the whole economy of that region.
In ours, it has worked very well. We have documented and we document quite well that we have changed the economy there. We work, on the short-term solution, Yarmouth and Shelburne Counties both have been hit hard in job losses; Yarmouth with the Domtex, the Rio Algom, the downsizing of, in a lot of cases, the federal government in our area from base closures and the divesting of this, that and everything else. Shelburne County - extremely - has lost two bases, the fishery was in turmoil, and continues to be but it is still the backbone
of the economy down there. We have looked at the short term to try to create jobs and put jobs in play with all three levels of government partaking in their programs.
In the long term, looking at where the economy is going to go, where it is going and trying to target which would be appropriate for us. Looking at a long-term view, out five, six, seven years and saying, you are going to change the economy, we are looking in ours to look back to agriculture. Agriculture used to be a major component of southwestern Nova Scotia. It is, as Mr. Hurlburt said, the sun belt because we do get the most sun days and so forth, and we are the southernmost point of the Atlantic Provinces. Our connections with the New England states and so forth, we have reinforced those. We have gone into agriculture, we are pushing on tourism. Recently, very happily, we landed a call centre to come into our area, which ties in well with our community colleges because they, in turn, have become partners.
Through the RDA, we have brought partnerships together. Our board is made up of 10 business people, municipal people and so forth, but we have 22 others who attend our meetings on an ex-officio status and they attend every meeting, from community colleges, the College l'Acadie, Economic Development, ACOA, HRDC, Community Services. Basically what we do is a total open book, and they all have input into it. We have gone to consultation processes over the last two or three years which are attended by between 75 to 100 people twice a year. We look at where we have been, where we want to be and how we are going to get there. We get the buy-in of the community. The municipal units, to say that they have bought in to it is an understatement.
Our core funding is 100/100/100, $300,000. Our municipal units, on an average year, are putting another $300,000 to $400,000, not counting capital projects, into the operation, where we are going. I guess, aside from bringing them together and them all thinking as one regionally, we have brought them into play so that we have become their economic development arm for those municipal units. Whereas they could not afford to have - each one - an economic development department, we have become their department, we have their trust. I guess the best way to have their trust is with their cheque book and we do have their cheque book, and basically we get things done in our area.
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, just one last question, if I may. With the creation of Nova Scotia Business Inc., were the RDAs consulted prior to the creation of this new corporation?
MR. ANDERSON: We knew of what was happening and knew where it was coming from. It is just coming into itself right now. I read in the paper that they have changed their chairman and so forth. It is a department of the province, as the departments of the federal government, we work with the departments as they come down. I expect no major changes in that situation. They are the lending arm as such. It used to be the BDC, now it is NSBI. We look forward to dealing with them and get in there and see if we can free up some money for
the regional parts and our private sector individuals because I think this is to have a private sector tone to it and so forth. It is another agency. It is like ACOA on the federal side.
We deal with ACOA, we deal with Transport Canada, we deal with all the departments because all of them have different funding formulae because in the end, if we are going to get stuff done regionally and rurally in rural Nova Scotia, we in turn have to have access to funding of some sort. In the various departments, we have been very successful in the last number of the years, the majority of the RDAs, of attracting funding from sources which you really wouldn't think would help in rural Nova Scotia, in rural areas, but they have in ours. So NSBI, we look forward to dealing with them as another department that we would go after and so forth. Actually, right now NSBI is working on three files for three different operations in our area. We have officers assigned to them and they are working on the files.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Boudreau. I might add from my perspective, an excellent last question. (Laughter) Mr. Holm.
MR. HOLM: Thank you very much and I apologize if a few of the things may be in the material. I am a substitute so I didn't go through the package. I won't touch on structure and I won't touch on auditing, obviously, because those have all been addressed. A few questions, though, that I would like to throw out there. You talked about successes but the RDAs get together and they also have discussions about things that they would like to see, I am sure, changes. There are some changes it might facilitate the works that - I am breaking in a new tongue here - they are trying to do. Are there any concerns or any issues that the RDAs, as a body, would like to see changed that would make it easier for them to carry out their mandate?
MR. ANDERSON: Last year we dealt with the province, ACOA and our municipal units on the long-term funding. We had five years core funding set aside and that has not been resolved and we are working to still resolve that situation to get the long-term funding put into play because then you are not looking year to year. You run into trouble with staff. It is hard to hire good staff and hard to maintain staff if you know your funding is only year to year. So our focus in the last year or so has been to, number one, get that funding through the federal/provincial. Our municipal units are ready. They have been beside us almost from day one. So that is an issue to us.
Going into other issues that we have on the table right now, because we have a meeting coming up next week, is board development, developing the volunteer boards that we have and getting their expertise up and so forth and, at the same time, developing staff and bringing staff onside. The major one being funding. Other than that, those would be where we are at right now. We have gone through the evaluation process. That was a long, arduous process and we went through it, got through it and now have procedures in play but I would
say right now, John, the most pressing thing would be our long-term funding, get that in play, get the five-year funding which we are hoping for in play so okay you focus on that, you don't spend a month out of a year, trying to make sure that you have funding for the next year in keeping your staff in place because people want some sort of security in their job. If they know it is a five-year program, you can attract very good people.
MR. HOLM: And of course that has been an issue for a lot of years. I seem to remember numbers of years ago discussions, too, about - I hope I am not misremembering here - but concerns about or the desire, let's put it that way, to get multi-year financing arranged and in place. That has been an ongoing issue.
MR. ANDERSON: Up until March 31, 2001, that was the end of the five year funding. This year we have funding in place and we have put a new plan in, it is in our documentation to the federal/provincial government last November and we are hoping that that gets into line and we could have the five-year program come out.
MR. HOLM: A couple of other things, too. Does the association ever evaluate government programs to see how they are benefiting or not the particular areas? One of the things that I am thinking about here certainly is the oil and gas industry and there have been, I know, some concerns raised by certain areas anyway about the economic benefits from the development being able to be spread to all parts of the province and there are some concerns, I believe, being expressed now about the draft proposal by PanCanadian for the development and how the gas and liquids would be loaded in, how they are going to the pipelines and what economic benefits may accrue to Nova Scotia as a result, if their plan is followed. I believe that the association has been provided with something, have there been any formal or informal discussions, any positions taken, any evaluations being done?
MR. ANDERSON: Formally, no. Individually, you are into a situation that would affect certain areas of the province, certain regional development authorities. I know in our situation, and I can speak on it from our own knowledge, in western Nova Scotia there is oil and gas, we are into this distribution. We have applied for a franchisee licence as an intervener under the present situation going on with Sempra. We are concerned that we, as a community and as a region, are prepared for what might take place in western Nova Scotia if there is oil and gas to come forward there and everyone says there is. We try to deal with the sister RDAs as in Guysborough and so forth as it will have an effect down there. Cape Breton is going through some of that right now.
Formally no, informally between us, yes, we share all of the information. If I have something that is working, we share with the others, even if they are totally not involved but if they are interested we share our best practices back and forth. We are into a process right now with Lunenburg/Queens and with Western Valley Development Authority. We just very successfully attracted a new call centre, so we share what we have done there, the best practice there. In turn - and I know they are out looking because most areas of rural Nova
Scotia are looking for employment - we would share the best practices with them, how we have accomplished that and it saves them going through that learning cycle and so forth.
MR. HOLM: I appreciate that, certainly a call centre and sharing the best practices and so on to attract that but we, in this province, have had an awful lot of hype about the benefits that are going to be accruing from one end of the province to the other, as a result of the development of oil and gas, supposedly and the distribution of that across the province. So it is something I would think that all RDAs would be looking at and trying to figure out how can we, or our region benefit as a result of that. Therefore they may also wish to take a look at whether or not they see any of those benefits accruing to their areas and what maybe collectively they can do to encourage public policies that would assist in the distribution and maximizing of employment in all areas of the province where RDAs are operating. I am wondering if there is any kind of process, any kind of plan, anything that is going to help us achieve that Mecca that supposedly it is going to be bringing for communities from one end of the province to the other?
MR. ANDERSON: Formally from the association, no, at this point it is not on the agenda. Informally, back to what I was saying, I would figure there were at least five, if not six of the regional development authorities working in some way to take advantage of what is happening with oil and gas, where it is going and to get the benefits for their region. We are all sister RDAs but we are all extremely competitive of the same situation. We will all fight for our region and then fight for the overall province as such.
We have dealt with and are dealing with Guysborough and what they are doing, Antigonish, Cape Breton, Lunenburg/Queens on the South Shore but on the association's point of view, no, there is no formal situation happening there right now. I am not saying it won't happen at Tuesday's meeting, if it gets on the agenda or whatever, but no, no formal policy down there.
MR. HOLM: Do you know if that or a related topic is on the agenda for the upcoming meetings?
MR. ANDERSON: No. We digress and get into those meetings the night before, the agenda is set but we always add items to it but a lot of it goes on before you actually get to the meetings because the executive directors meet away from the meetings and then come together with the meeting. This meeting coming up on Monday andTuesday is the executive directors and then the association and our annual meeting of the association. So the agenda is pretty well set for that situation but we always digress into what the topic is, what is happening and what is topical at that particular moment.
Oil and gas is out there, there is no question on that. It is going to affect the economy of this province for the next number of years. The regions that it does involve, ours - looking down the road because it probably isn't going to involve it tomorrow but it might involve it
in the next two years or whatever - we are aware of it, we stay on top of it, watch it and get into play with the various government departments as it comes down. Our area has been visited by some oil and gas companies and so forth, so you assume something is going to be taking place there, so we stay aware of it and stay on top of it, trying to get the best benefit for our particular region.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Downe.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: I remember 1994 well when we started the RDAs and not all municipalities came in with open arms in the beginning but since that time have certainly learned to appreciate that by working together we can help build stronger bases in each one of our areas. Lunenburg/Queens was a prime example of that. We had three or four different town and municipal units and they were all competing for the same investments.
Back to one of John's questions about funding. I thought there was a five year plan that we brought in for funding?
MR. ANDERSON: Under the EDA there was but it expired March 31, 2001.
MR. DOWNE: The current administration hasn't been able to put that whole package of a five year plan together right now?
MR. ANDERSON: We made a presentation last November to ACOA and the Department of Economic Development for where we will go with the next five year plan. We continue to work on that, it is not in place yet. Funding for this current year 2001-02 is covered.
MR. DOWNE: There is no question that the RDAs are a bit of a hallmark of Nova Scotia's approach to rural development. We have two economies, urban and rural communities and having an aggressive RDA out there, trying to bring business to different communities, businesses that they feel comfortable with. It is important that we have great staff throughout the province in the RDAs.
One of the problems we seem to always have is trying to access funding for major projects. We are always going to ACOA and going here and going there. Is there a quarterbacking process here now in place or could you see a quarterbacking process where when an RDA brings in a business - I remember trying to get one for Lunenburg and trying to get the funding from ACOA and trying to get somebody to quarterback the province's commitment, as well as the federal government's commitment. How does that work? Are you happy with that process or do you think it could be streamlined a little bit better? The criteria with the federal government are different with ACOA than they are necessarily with the Department of Economic Development.
MR. ANDERSON: They both have their own strategic plans to a point they reasonably meld because they usually pick four or five sectors; right now, I think ACOA is running on five different sectors that it wants to fund, promote and so forth. Again, the province's strategic plan and trying to meld their strategic plan, ACOA's strategic plan and our strategic plan is a challenge. That makes the day long some days but it does work in the end.
We have been quite successful in the last little while and some of the other RDAs have been too, it is an ongoing shift. ACOA is coming out with a new program now called, SCIF, Special Community Investment Fund. It does open up doors for new funding, new funding package, several million a year. This is a different package in the fact that the fund is for Atlantic Canada and they usually have allotments for each province. In this particular SCIF program there aren't any nail-down allotments per province, it is open to the four Atlantic Provinces so if you have the projects and you are there, you get them. It is not that you are allowed this much and you can't go any further, it is an open field, which is fair and we like to rise to that challenge. It is described somewhat in our zone because of the downturn in the fishery - Lunenburg/Queens would be one of the other areas - we have the FRAM program and this new SCIF program which is sort of like the FRAM program for the province because FRAM is coming to an end on March 31, 2002 for funding approvals and then a clean-up year for 2002-03. So we are working very frantically to make sure that, (a) the dollars are used and, (b) they are used wisely.
SCIF is a good program from the province's - mostly if we are dealing in the private sector mode with the private sector, we are dealing with the payroll rebate and we are fixed there. SCIF is the only other program that we could probably use with other groups. There are not many other programs left for the province . . .
MR. DOWNE: I guess - because I have a couple of more questions - my thought was it would be great if we can kind of coordinate the strategies together so that we could be moving forward because invariably you have to change your approach from one versus the other to get funding to move a project forward.
MR. ANDERSON: I guess with the RDA process, and having been around a little long in the tooth in the economic development situation, with the RDAs now, with the province, the fed and the municipal units, there is sort of a melding of that situation because ACOA is not just over here, the province over here and the municipal units are the little guys down here sometimes begging for dollars and cents. They have come together and we have a forum whereby we can discuss like, your plans going over there, our plans going over here, somehow they have to come together and through that RDA process, it does work there and we have input instead of just the federal government coming down and saying look, this is our new program and you haven't any input. We have had input into SCIF. We have had input
into the province's strategic plan through the consultation process of going across the province.
So I guess by being regional and having the 13 regions and the 13 RDAs and I think they replace something like 100 organizations, which is very efficient and very smart, and by having that municipal input, because you can't stress that enough, the municipalities were sort of left off. They were all fighting for themselves. We have 13 towns and municipalities and the large one might get something but the little town of 1,000 people really was sort of not even consulted. Right now in our organization, they all have equal voices. The representation on the board is equal. It doesn't matter if you have 12,000, 15,000 or if you have 1,000 people, you all have an equal voice. That works. It goes back to the RDA process. The process is right. Finally, you are equal partners, one-third/one-third/one-third. It does work.
MR. DOWNE: The tax incentives we talked about here at this committee level before and actually at one point we brought in some tax incentives for zones in the province that are experiencing some difficulty with economic development or employment. How do you feel about investment tax credits or about providing additional tax incentives for regions versus having a direct subsidy different than an incentive such as a tax incentive? A tax incentive usually comes into play after something was actually invested.
MR. ANDERSON: Tax free zones, if I am following where you are coming from and so forth . . .
MR. DOWNE: Well, tax incentive zones or areas where you would actually provide a top-up, a tax credit benefit.
MR. ANDERSON: So you are coming your finance days. You are really getting up way above me on that situation. The payroll tax rebate, which we now deal with, we find a very good program by virtue of the fact it pays a percentage of that payroll tax a year in arrears. You are into a situation the company must pay because we are looking at it now with two different firms, they must pay the payroll and so forth and they are going to get a predetermined amount providing they make the employment, they have the payroll, they do the stuff and it is always after the fact. I think that precludes any, if a company doesn't make it and they go - heaven forbid - under, the province hasn't lost anything because it is a very effective program, a very safe program and it is an incentive program in the fact that we have to be aware of all the different programs. We are not alone in this world. I read very carefully every couple of months and so forth we have all these periodicals coming in and I had 10 conferences in other parts of this province and this country as to what they are doing.
We have to, in this province, stay competitive not just with New Brunswick but what everybody else is doing, allowing for the fact of our finances because we are a small province and we have to pay attention to what is going on south of the border because we are truly not in the competition business there because they have gone to the point where they have their
federal, provincial, municipal, but they have brought the private sector in. They brought their telcos in, their utilities in and so forth and we go to these conferences and you see these utilities and you see the telcos there and they are putting dollars cash up front. I think that is a model you want . . .
MR. DOWNE: Film tax credit is a prime example we brought in. In didn't exist before and we brought it in and it has paid dividends and there is a two-tier film tax credit for the film industry. I guess the question really is, do you see a benefit of that in other disciplines or other areas throughout rural Nova Scotia? The economy is as hot as a firecracker right here in Halifax but thank God they have a call centre going to Yarmouth because Yarmouth needed that incentive or the Valley has some problems or the South Shore or Cape Breton, obviously there is a big problem in industrial Cape Breton. Those areas where you could kind of take a look at and say we have a chronic problem of unemployment, we have a problem with businesses shutting down, should there be tax incentives provincially? Would the RDA support that concept of providing additional tax credits for development in those areas?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Downe. I am going to move along, you may get an opportunity for other questions later. Mr. Epstein.
MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Anderson, I wanted you to know just how supportive we are of the basic idea of RDAs. They are a very good thing to have put in place in the province. Any planning system that comes from the community level on up I think is bound to be the right way to go. It is good to have you here today, and I am interested to read some of the reports that are here. Maybe you could help me understand a couple of points. Did I hear you say earlier that the 13 RDAs that you have were incorporated under the Societies Act?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, I think that's there.
MR. EPSTEIN: The reason I ask about that is that as I was reading the Regional Community Development Act, if I read it correctly, it seems that the minister can actually create an RDA upon a request from a municipality. It doesn't seem to contemplate going through the Societies Act. This is a small point I would have to say.
MR. ANDERSON: The association is incorporated under the Societies Act. The individual RDAs are incorporated under the RDA Act. Some, because they were incorporated before the Act came into play, have dual registration under ours - we were incorporated under the Societies Act before the RDA Act was proclaimed and went through the process and so forth - then they incorporated under that so they are carrying two incorporations.
MR. EPSTEIN: That's fine.
MR. ANDERSON: But the association itself is under the Societies Act.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, that's fine. It is not a major point, I was just curious about it. Can I ask about the Greater Halifax Partnership? Of course, you do have as a member the Halifax Regional Development Authority, but that is not the Greater Halifax Partnership. Can you explain to me why it is the Greater Halifax Partnership doesn't participate in the organization?
MR. ANDERSON: I have no explanation. I can't provide the explanation by virtue that they were offered membership in the association. Back a few years ago they did attend, before we had the formal organization, we always came together as executive directors and so forth, and we did have some participation from the partnership. From the incorporation of the association, the working up to it, the year to get it in play and so forth, and since then membership was offered, membership was declined.
MR. EPSTEIN: That's interesting. I am familiar with the partnership because it was established at a time when I was a member of the HRM's municipal council and I have watched it at work. I would have thought that there would be a good opportunity for interaction and learning from one another if they were to participate.
MR. ANDERSON: So did we.
MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, that's too bad. Okay, I guess we will see what we can do about following up on that. The total number of dollars, did I hear you mention that it is $1.4 million times three, would that be the total province-wide number of dollars going into RDAs?
MR. ANDERSON: It is $1.4 million from the province, $1.4 million from the federal government, and $1.4 million from the municipal government. Now the province under the EDA, there was a different sharing amount there and I am not really aware of the amount, what they did because they did it under the EDA, whatever the percentage is there. The $2.8 million put into the RDAs over the last annual for the RDAs would have come from the EDA, so there is a percentage split there, I don't know what it is. To us it is equal, one-third, one-third, one-third.
MR. EPSTEIN: Sure, but then the total amount of money expended on behalf of the RDAs province-wide would amount to no more than $3 million or $4 million.
MR. ANDERSON: It is $1.4 million times three.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, that's fine, good, clear enough. Is there any . . .
MR. ANDERSON: We would like to discuss that sometime, maybe there could be a little raise because of the cost of living over the last number of years. (Laughter) I would be remiss not to say that, because the dollar has changed in the last five or six years.
MR. EPSTEIN: Has or has not?
MR. ANDERSON: Has, just by inflation.
MR. EPSTEIN: No, I mean the total funding hasn't gone up over the years?
MR. ANDERSON: Not from our federal/provincial partners, it has from the municipal partners.
MR. EPSTEIN: I see. Will there be an opportunity to renegotiate that?
MR. ANDERSON: In our presentation of November 2000 to the federal/provincial governments we had asked for an escalation, and I believe the escalation was to go from $100,000 to $125,000 per funding partner. In other words, instead of having $300,000 a year, $100,000/$100,000/$100,000, it would be $125,000/$125,000/$125,000.
MR. EPSTEIN: Is there any part of the province that isn't covered by an RDA?
MR. ANDERSON: No. There are two or three municipal units that have chosen not to be in the RDA, some come, some go, but I think in the presentation it is 51 or 52, depending on the day, of the 55 that are involved with it. I have been involved with it since day one.
MR. EPSTEIN: The 55 you are referring to are the municipal units around the province.
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, exactly. It covers the province as a whole.
MR. EPSTEIN: One of the things I wondered about was whether the configuration of the 13 that you now have makes sense. Do you see any further evolution? You pointed out that historically there were a lot more RDAs, and then there was a process of consolidation. Do you see any further consolidation, or does the current arrangement make sense to you?
MR. ANDERSON: The arrangement as set out in 1994 is still the same arrangement, it hasn't changed. When I spoke before of 1994, you had industrial commissions, development commissions and so forth, there were about 100 of them. They went away, the 13 or 14 RDAs came into play. Their regions were set down, there was some sort of formula to figure out what's what. It is working well right now. It seems to be working. There may be some melding in the future because with everything after five years you should look back and see,
is it working, should there be a realignment, but there hasn't been any official movement on that situation. I don't see one really happening right now. Again, it will probably be driven by the municipal units themselves. I believe that if they saw a better formula, they would, from the grassroots, move up and say look, this would be a better match. Basically, right now, I think it is working across the province, the 13 or 14 if you count the partnership.
MR. EPSTEIN: One of the documents we have seems to be a description of the different projects that have been undertaken by the RDAs, it goes through each one of them.
MR. ANDERSON: We took a sampling, we just thought it would be nice.
MR. EPSTEIN: It is very useful, I have to say. I do see that Ati Consulting has its name on some of the pages that are here, does that mean that this was put together from their review of the RDAs, or is this document the Ati review?
MR. ANDERSON: No, no. This is ours. They may have, for various ones there, put it together. We had a short time frame to put this all together and get it to you. Some had the time to get everything together centrally to put it out, others we took from the Ati report because the evaluation did list various projects that the communities were very proud of, so they may have extracted it from that evaluation process.
MR. EPSTEIN: Sure.
MR. ANDERSON: That evaluation document is about that thick, so it would have a lot of those in it. Seeing Ati there is probably a situation where those RDAs didn't get them in on time, so they just extracted from the evaluation. The evaluation is not that old, it is only a year old.
MR. EPSTEIN: That is when it was done, the Ati was just done about a year ago?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay. Just for the record, Mr. Anderson was holding his fingers about two or three inches apart.
MR. ANDERSON: It was a very extensive report. It was a good process for us all to go through and say, okay, look, you have been there for four years, five years, what's good, what's not, and just do the evaluation. I have not been in an economic development organization in this province or seen one that has done the extensive evaluation process that this organization was just put through, and then, right behind it, put through it again, a second one within the year, individually. We did the association as a whole for the province, is it good, bad or indifferent, but then we went individually to all 13 - that is all we can speak of is the 13 - to look at where we are, what we have been doing and go out and get the
comments from the private sector, from the municipal units, from the public at large, is this good or is this bad and is it helping grow the economy? The report came back that it was. It was independently done and it was very good.
MR. EPSTEIN: I think a number of us will know Ati Consulting Group, they tend to do a good job. Does each of the RDAs have its own strategy for economic development in its area, have they all adopted one now?
MR. ANDERSON: Part of the funding formula from the beginning was to develop a five ear strategy, and then annually to re-look at that. Some have gone through their first five year cycle and have gone into another five year strategy, but to us that is looking at the long range, whereas every year, before your funding comes into play and so forth, you have to provide your financial statements, you have to do another consultation process, every year, with your communities - in our particular case, that is all eight municipal units - and in turn put in a new business strategy, update where you are going to go for that particular year and the next year. You have a five year, then you are going to update it every year, and you are going to look two years down, because you don't want to go too much farther down than that two years on the business plan because it is just not realistic, things change. That process goes on every year.
MR. EPSTEIN: That's good to hear. When the revisions are done, did you have the chance, or do the RDAs have the chance, to look at the province's economic development strategy and the various documents that have been issued by the new government?
MR. ANDERSON: That comes into play, yes, because that is going to affect what you are doing. We'll go back to one of the other questions, if ACOA has a new plan coming out, part of a business plan is where you are going to get the dollars and so forth to actually accomplish something. It is good to say I am going to grow the economy by doing this, but you better say where the money is coming from, what duration it is going to take. We are very definitive on timelines and so forth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Jon Carey.
MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Chairman, just in looking through this, the operational expenses from RDA to RDA seems to vary quite significantly, from 30 per cent to 80 per cent of their operating revenues. Is this an accounting difference, the way it is operated, or . . .
MR. ANDERSON: Individual RDAs?
MR. CAREY: Yes.
MR. ANDERSON: Individual RDAs all have that core operating and depending on your aggressiveness or whatever and so forth, where you are going to go and what you have
got on your plate, some of our RDAs have a budget of $300,000 to $400,000 or whatever, they don't just stay with the core, some of us have budgets of millions of dollars depending upon what we are doing with our municipal units and so forth. I know in our particular situation we have rolled up into the RDA, we have picked up the Industrial Commission, which we administer, it like a landholding business operation. We have the Development Corporation into it and from that we are moving onto the Port Authority and so forth, they are all coming in and around. There are separate entities, separate boards. You may have the RDA as the regional body overlooking it all. Our budget this year was set for the RDA at $1.9 million.
MR. CAREY: So the operational expense from RDA to RDA can vary and there is no rationale to have a certain percentage used for operational expenses or anything of that nature?
MR. ANDERSON: Our accounting back to ACOA and the province's municipal units is one-third/one-third/one-third and we have to do that on a quarterly basis. We call for advances on core funding. We also report on other project funding that we are getting from other different sources, because we are all into other different sources. In our particular RDA, since day one, I think the lowest budget we have ever produced is about $1 million. As operational and some, to a point, projects in there but some of those projects could be ongoing for five years or more, with a lot of varying things, but it depends strictly on the area.
If you have a vibrant economy, like Halifax, and things are happening and so forth, for the community to get involved in that economy may not be as demanding as an area of western Nova Scotia, Yarmouth-Shelburne, the unemployment rate is very high and to try to figure out the right thing to do to change the economy there, there is a lot of trial and error. So, a lot of dollars go into it. But, again, that comes back to our municipal partners too, because their job, they see, as changing that economy, increasing the tax base, lowering unemployment, putting more jobs into play and they focus on that on a daily basis. They want to see some things done, so we will again take their dollars and leverage again with the different federal departments, we will leave ACOA and go to Industry Canada or one of the other departments, HRDC; or through the province, we will leave Economic Development and go to other departments. We are dealing now with Natural Resources, Community Services and if the department is there then sometimes it is not necessary cash has to move, it can be actual other items, non-cash items and so forth, that are into play there. But we deal with them all.
MR. CAREY: So you really don't see RDA operational expenses, it would be necessary that they shouldn't exceed a certain percentage of their revenue?
MR. ANDERSON: I am not sure I am understanding the question.
MR. CAREY: If I understand what you are saying, each RDA, as the information we have is anywhere from 30 per cent to 80 per cent of their actual revenue is used for operations.
MR. ANDERSON: In some cases that would be. . .
MR. CAREY: So it would depend, I expect, on what the RDA is doing.
MR. ANDERSON: Exactly.
MR. CAREY: I guess what I am trying to get a feeling for is an RDA that is spending 80 per cent of its revenue on operational expenses would that be simply because they are more aggressive and they were trying larger projects or how would it, I mean it seems quite a range for one to be at 30 per cent of the revenue and another at 80 per cent to me and maybe I don't have the understanding of it?
MR. ANDERSON: I am trying to go around your question. Each RDA has that core funding, they believe that is the cost at 100 /100/100 to operate an effective regional authority in that region and they are all the same. Now some of the larger units, CBCEDA or larger areas, their municipal units may see to put more dollars in there because it is a bigger operation, it is a bigger area, so therefore they require more funding and they would do it. The federal/provincial at that level right now is not changed from the last five years. That was the agreement.
In our particular region, our municipal units have seen fit to put more dollars in for operation. That being said, if I look at our operations at about 400, our budget this year was set at 1.9 and you can do the percentages from there. Our actual budget to date this year is 3.7. We have exceeded the 1.9, we have gone beyond it. So those percentages change by large projects or a multitude of projects coming into play. There is no question, it is the greatness about the RDA system, each area can be aggressive as to what that area and that region wants. What Halifax is doing will not necessarily be the same thing as we are doing. They may decide to do marketing. We are just, right now, I would say in the trenches trying to get jobs and taxation put into play.
MR. CAREY: I guess what I was trying to get clear in my own mind was if the revenue from the RDA, if they are spending, for example, 80 per cent, is that an indication that that RDA is maybe in a more economically depressed area and having more difficulty in attracting business and I suppose revenue?
MR. ANDERSON: No, your operational costs are your operational costs. It is a fixed formula. If, in turn, you need extra help because you are in a depressed area, and especially if you are rural, I think you could run a more efficient organization in Halifax because you are closer to government, you are closer to big business and so forth and everything here versus
us in the rural. It was talked about earlier that the rural should have a little more benefit than the urban because the urban, everything centralizes right there. If I have to come to Halifax once or twice or three times a month, the guy in Halifax just has to walk down the street, the government offices are right there. So there is more expense for the rural in that situation but we are all creative and figure out how we can make our systems work. There is no set percentage on that except for the fact the funding is firm 1/1/1, allowing for the fact that some of the municipal units put more dollars into their individual RDAs.
MR. CAREY: My final question would be, I think in your last annual general meeting there was a statement that there was a desire to be perceived as the voice of economic development for Nova Scotia in three years' time. That having been said, what role do you see for the Department of Economic Development in the future communication strategies?
MR. ANDERSON: You can also add ACOA to that to continue to be our partners. This works because of partnerships. ACOA is a partner, economic development is a partner and some of the RDAs have picked up other partners, very good partners. Partnership is everything in this situation. You are not going to be just running down tunnel vision. You have to bring all the partners in and I guess on our particular board we have the 10 voting members but we added 15 or 20 others because we have to have the voice and the partnerships that they bring along with it. They have to know what you are doing. I look at our staff reports and our minutes and so forth, I mean they are spread wide. Every person in that community can have them. We just finished a consultation process in January/February with the two counties and one of the messages coming back from the community is okay, fine, you come out and do the consultation, now what happens afterwards? We get the report at the end of the next consultation a year later of what you have done. They wanted to know what was the consensus of that consultation, where you are going, what are you going to be doing for that year?
So we chose, through the chamber of commerce they have a magazine that goes out and they usually print about 4,000 or 5,000 copies of it. We produce 20,000 copies where we put that magazine with our strategic plan as the centerfold of that whole magazine into every single household in Shelburne andYarmouth Counties and they in turn then read this is what the RDA is doing, this is what we ask them to do, this is a consensus of all the meetings and this fall we will start a new process whereby we go back and say okay, look, we are three-quarters through the year. This is what you said to do, you had a copy of it, now this is what we accomplished, this is where we were successful, this is where we failed - because there is no question, you try, you will fail - and this is where we want to go. It is just one more way of keeping the community, if you let them know what you are doing, again, even if you fail because you can try and try and try and fail and fail and fail but every so often you are successful and that sort of brings it around. If they are informed, if they know what you are doing, if you get the buy-in from the community and in that particular RDA I profess that we do have the buy-in, you keep them informed in this particular way of communicating by putting it in every single household, no one can say they do not know what we are doing
because it is there, they can read it and it is plain English. They can get it right straight up front.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Richard.
MR. HURLBURT: Frank, just to make a statement in the beginning and then I have two quick questions for you. Being on council for 11 years and warden for the last two terms of office on council, the RDA, in my eyes anyhow, tore the walls down that were up between the two Counties of Yarmouth and Shelburne and within our own County of Yarmouth there are three councils and there was in-house fighting within the three councils in our own Yarmouth County.
I see the RDA is the pillar that helped achieve cooperation between the two counties and within the counties. I noticed at the opening of the film stage in Shelburne the other day, all counties were represented, the eight councils for the RDA on the Southwest Shore. I know the councils - I still speak to all of them - and they are all very much in favour of the RDA for the Southwest Shore. I sure hope to see it keep going and growing the way it has in the past. If I am wrong in your estimation, that is your opinion, that is my opinion.
My first question is, are you aware that the local councils and the UNSM are in favour of extending the life of the RDAs and that the minister responsible and the Premier of this province have made it known that they are in favour of extending the life of the RDAs and to have a long-term plan and that we are still waiting for the feds to come onside with that? Are you aware of that?
MR. ANDERSON: No, I know there is support in municipal councils, there is support in the province, there is support in the feds. There is something stopping it there to get the final solution done and that is probably negotiation of percentages or whatever. We would like to see that come to a head but no, as the minister has stated there is no question. He challenged us in the year 2000 to do something and this was the individual evaluations and so forth and to demonstrate without question that we have an effect on the economy of Nova Scotia and we did that, definitely. We showed that in that year-long process of these outside independent groups coming in and evaluating us individually, not as a block, and bring all the good and the bad out because there is no question, you can't be everything to everybody. It brought it all out but overall we did succeed in that evaluation process.
I know the minister is in favour of it. I know the federal minister is in favour of it. I know the Premier is in favour of it. There has to be a push there. Maybe this committee can push them. We need to put it in play. We have spent an awful lot of time working and wrestling and working with the province, Economic Development and ACOA to come up with a formula, to come up with a plan and to go forward for the next five years. We want that done and set an evaluation process in place so that you don't - like if you spend a year to two years doing that, you are spending too much time doing that whereas you are supposed
to be out there and as lean and mean, and I profess that the regional development authorities are very lean and mean, there is not any fat there whatsoever, it is a situation that if we are taking time away to negotiate long-term contracts, we effectively are not doing the job we were put there to do and in turn it affects our staff levels because if a person is there and they are coming to work for us - and we just ended up we wanted to hire some more help and we couldn't get any provincial or federal help so our municipal units funded 100 per cent of another officer coming into play, which was very good.
It is hard to attract very competent people if they know you have to go every year for funding. That has to stop and a five year program has got to come back into play. The first program was great. We have learned through that process. This evaluation is into play now and all the right accountability processes are in. Everybody tells us that you are having an impact on the economy, you are very efficient. I don't know what the stumbling block is or if there is a stumbling block. Everyone says it is a working process, it is working good, but I don't where it is on the priority level because I know everybody is busy and so forth.
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, after the presentation is done maybe we could come back to this. I would like to make a motion on that. Frank, my final question is, you were the CEO for the Yarmouth Industrial Commission for a number of years and that was made up of a private board of businesses, private businesses within the county - I sat on that for 15 years myself, I think it was, and I found it very exciting and challenging at times - you had the local business people involved in it.
This Nova Scotia Business Inc., that is structured by the business community of this province. Do you not think that that is a step forward instead of a step backwards, which some people are insinuating? Instead of bureaucrats dictating business that needs help or new business coming to our province, it is being run by business within our province. Maybe that is putting you on the hot seat and you don't want to answer that.
MR. ANDERSON: I will answer any question. Nova Scotia Business Inc. is a procedure that is coming out. We are now dealing with them. Have they been proclaimed yet, are they already in the system, has that all been done and so forth? I know they are working, they don't have a chair right now. The officers are in play because you have had to move people and so forth from trade and investment and whatever. We deal with the departments. That is a board, it has a lending function and so forth. We have three of their officers now working on projects for us, and we expect them to produce and they will produce. In one year's time I might be able to come back and say whether it was good, bad or indifferent, but right now it is business as usual. We are there, they are the government department or agency right now to do work with our community. We expect them to work with us, and right now they are. I have no problem. The three officers we have working on our stuff right now are doing a very good job, and I expect that to continue.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Frank, if I could I would like to have your views on the fact that two Colchester County development associations, the West Colchester Community Development Association and the South Colchester Development Association, unanimously passed motions to operate independently of CORDA, the Colchester Regional Development Authority. I am just wondering if the association is intervening or has to be asked to intervene? A lot of people in Colchester County are very concerned about that, because what we have left is essentially a development agency that is representing the northern, the Tatamagouche area is still represented.
What are your thoughts there? What do you see happening? The mayor is in today's paper essentially pointing out how disappointed he is, and it is highly unlikely that the municipality would fund the, I think he used the term, dissenting groups. What is your take on all that?
MR. ANDERSON: I read with interest, it is as new to us as it is to yourself, in the local provincial paper what was happening there, we didn't know any of that was coming to fruition or where it was going. Our first meeting, because we do meet every two months, of the association is coming up and there is no question, I imagine the executive directors will be talking to each other and asking what took place and so forth. I know in the original way that the RDA was set up in Colchester, because remember the municipal units decided how they were going to set this up, and they chose to have three districts instead of the one, and it is the Colchester Regional Development Authority which was sort of central and then they had a district here and a district here funded by the regional development authority. Personally I would not have looked for our area to do that.
We have the two counties together. It is one development authority. We have offices in both counties, no question, and we treat them totally equally. We did not set up sub-agencies, I guess that is what you would call them in Colchester, and fund them to be doing what is done by the development authority in our particular region and in most of the regions in the province, the one RDA covers that region. They in turn had the RDA with two sub-agencies, and I really didn't understand that when it was set up. That was the will of the municipal units at the time, that is the way their structure was put in play.
I don't know what is happening now, but we will probably know next week when we talk to the executive director about what is going on. There is going to be, when you cover a province as diverse as we are, from Cape Breton to Yarmouth and all parts in between, differences. I guess that is why you are seeing 51 of the 55. There are going to be those hiccups. I still believe the system works. We would provide any one of the RDAs from the association or any of the individual RDAs around them all the help they would ask for, but actually to step in and do whatever, I don't think you would see that happen. That is grassroots, that community decides its fate, where it is going and how it is going to come to fruition.
I remember when we originally set up, the Municipality of Lunenburg was not involved with the Lunenburg/Queens. After a couple of years it was. Those things will happen over a period of time. This new event in Colchester, it is as new to us as it is to you, we read it in the paper.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Obviously you are aware that CORDA is in, allegedly, some financial difficulty and trouble themselves. In fact, if you try to go find their financial statements for the last two fiscal years, which are supposed to be submitted by August, they are unavailable.
MR. ANDERSON: I don't truly understand that because the process with us is that those must be provided to ACOA . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Exactly.
MR. ANDERSON: . . . the province, and I know my eight municipal units, they don't wait until August, if they are not there in June they are asking where they are. That is part of your accountability process. Again, the partners will come into that, that would be a municipal/federal/provincial situation if it is not being provided. I did not know what you just said.
MR. CHAIRMAN: According to the minutes, Frank, of the August 22nd meeting that was held in Stewiacke, the South Colchester Development Association, which is a highly-respected organization within that part of the county, indicated that CORDA cut the funding back from $35,000 per annum to $10,000, $5,000 of which they have received, so there is still $5,000 outstanding. Anyway, the minutes go on and it is too much detail to, perhaps, discuss here today. I would hope that some peace can be made between those organizations because CORDA, up until all this broke loose, so to speak, was certainly, from my perspective at least and I think the municipality would agree, doing a real bang-up job, bringing in a lot of business to the various industrial parks and so on. There are problems up there, problems big time.
MR. ANDERSON: Like I said earlier, if you are dealing with one part of the province to the next, there will be problems as they go through the system, but I did not know the statement that you just made. That was interesting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will give you a copy of that. It is on the Internet.
MR. ANDERSON: It will be discussed on Monday or Tuesday, I would imagine. They just put a new executive director into play, and that is part of evolving, people come, people go. I am really not sure where their plan is going. Most of us, right now, have our heads to the ground and we are buried in what we are doing and so forth. The only time we get to see the other regional development authorities is at these bi-monthly meetings, to find
out what is going on. In a day, we try to find out what the other ones are doing, whether one can help. I guess that was the whole idea coming from setting up the provincial body. We have struggled with that over a couple of years' time. We put the association in play. We are funding it through our own sources right now. We were very lucky in the last little while to receive some funding from a federal agency, to help us put a part-time administrative person in play to help us.
It is hard because we're lean, we're mean and we don't have a lot of dollars. We put $200 or $300 or $400 in times the 14 or 13 of us, that is all we have, and you can't do much with $3,900. It is hard, but the association is starting to do what it is supposed to do, and that would be interfacing, and difficulties of different RDAs, going and talking to the municipal units and showing them what the other counties and regions are doing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Brian, do you have some short snappers?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, I just have two quick short snappers, if I can. I want to congratulate you, first of all, for your informative session here today. I appreciate your coming here, because I have learned a great deal. I am sure your knowledge of the RDAs has certainly contributed to the success of them. Do you feel the local content, the local makeup of RDAs really contributes and is probably the better asset to the success level that RDAs have enjoyed?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. BOUDREAU: The government indicated that they were going to release a comprehensive community economic development policy. Has that policy been released yet, to your knowledge?
MR. ANDERSON: Not to my knowledge. The government has put out several strategies through consultation processes in the last period of time, but Brian whether that is one of them I can't really tell you because in our reading material we are a few months behind. It may very well be on our desk as we speak.
MR. BOUDREAU: So you don't really have any knowledge of whether RDAs have been consulted with regard to this?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, the consultation process has been done with the RDAs, there is no question. If it is economic development within this province, federal or provincial, we are there because if we are not there we will ask to be there, that is a given. If it is going to be economic development, there is going to be input one way or the other, either by being asked or by the regional development authorities because it does affect us, there is no question it does affect us. Some of us more than others may speak out too much at one time or another but no, if it is economic development, we are in that field and we would watch what is going
on with any department and if we see that economic development is going to affect our communities or our regions, we will have our voice heard one way or the other. Most of the time - I would say all of the time - we are asked because from the federal-provincial, I believe, we are recognized as an effective tool to cover this province.
Going back to my original statement one- third/one-third/one-third is the right way. Every one is an equal partner: the federal, the provincial, the municipal. No one is the leader there, they are all equal and that is the way it should be.
MR. BOUDREAU: Just one final short question with regard to funding. Do you feel that there should be at least a five year plan funding package put together . . .
MR. ANDERSON: The last plan was five years and it worked very well. We would like to know there is another five years in play and just a small cost escalator.
MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We can take a few more questions. Mr. Downe.
MR. DOWNE: The five year plan, the question earlier was whether it is a federal problem or a provincial problem and your response to that was that everybody wants to make it work, they are just in negotiations. Would it be appropriate for this body to at least communicate to the federal minister and to the Premier and to the provincial minister that negotiations continue and to have both parties acknowledge that we would like to see this funding issue resolved as soon as possible?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes, but the negotiations are finished. The presentations have been made, everybody has looked at it and everybody has bought into it. I guess it just has to rise to the agenda. Federal and provincial both, from the Premier, the minister and the federal minister, they are all in agreement as to what they are doing, but I guess somewhere it stopped within the system. They just have to get it on the agenda, there probably is a whole bunch of other things in the way of it. To us, we spent a year doing the presentation, doing evaluations. It is time the funding formula was approved; put the five year program into play, and let's get on with it.
MR. DOWNE: I guess there are some who would want to point a finger at one group, one government versus another government. I am more interested in having both governments communicated to and wanting this committee to say to both parties, please finish this process and get on with the funding without blaming one over the other.
MR. ANDERSON: We would truly, truly appreciate that.
MR. DOWNE: Okay. The other one is what Brian was referring to, it is called the Opportunities for Prosperity, it is a government document. You were involved with that?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. DOWNE: So the consultation was on that level.
MR. ANDERSON: In a lot of cases, very first-handedly, because when they are coming into our regions, federal-provincial, they will call us and we will set the meetings up, we will provide the meeting rooms. We will make sure that the request is from the community to the residents to come, not the request from Halifax or Ottawa. We will make sure the people are there, the public are there and meeting rooms, et cetera, because it is important to the community as a whole, and even to facilitate them.
MR. DOWNE: One of the quick snappers I am referring to, there are weaknesses and strengths within anything we develop and it is nice to hear the comments by all political Parties that that policy we brought in in 1994 was and has been a success. There is also the next generation of RDAs and I guess what I am hearing you say, through the evaluations and the meetings and things like that, you are not going to have RDA II, as much as continually looking at ways to make the RDA more cost-effective, more efficient, more productive and so on and so forth. That is an evolution that is continuing on a regular basis, vis-à-vis having RDA II coming out?
MR. ANDERSON: Agreed.
MR. DOWNE: Thank you.
[2:15 p.m. Mr. Brian Boudreau took the Chair.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just for the record, I will recognize that I have assumed the Chair, being the vice-chairman, and the chairman took a "Baker Break". (Laughter)
MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Chairman, do each of the RDAs have a board of directors?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes.
MR. CHIPMAN: And that is in the Act and that is a requirement of the Act?
MR. ANDERSON: The board of directors in the various regions, they are made up differently and so forth. Not necessarily what works in Kings will work in Yarmouth/Shelburne. Again, the grassroots is deciding how this thing will work. I know in ours, it was trying to be, no question, equal and it ended up there would be five voting
members coming from Shelburne County and there would be five voting members coming from Yarmouth County.
The five municipal units of Shelburne put their people forward. The three municipal units of Yarmouth County put theirs forward and the balancing act was they went to their industrial commission which they had going for the last 20-some years and said you will send two business people up into this organization and that way the two continue to communicate back and forth, because you can't have one arm not knowing what the other arm is doing. To this thing, openness and communication is the most important thing so the community, as a whole, business, the government and so forth, everybody sees what you are doing.
I guess to reiterate on our particular situation, we produce a 30 page to 40 page document every month and it goes to every councillor, every council, the MLAs, the MPs, it comes into Halifax to ACOA, goes to Economic Development where they are distributed. It is an open book and it tells everything that we are doing, why we are doing it, where we are doing it and it is a very good document. To that end, what we looked to accomplish over the last four or five years was to get the trust of the councils because they are the leaders in their community and I truly believe we have the trust of the eight councils, we have the trust of the community as a whole. By being open and communicating properly with your community, they will get a feel for what you are doing.
MR. CHIPMAN: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are there any other questions? Mr. Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Chairman, I very much appreciate the opportunity to listen to you, Frank. This is the first Economic Development Committee meeting that I have attended and I think many of the things you are talking about that everybody around this table, it doesn't matter what part of Nova Scotia we come from, we certainly are very familiar with the RDAs in our area and things like that. I think it is very good that you made the point that we are rather unique in Canada, that three levels of government are coming together and they are doing things together and it is very important because anybody might have a good idea and nobody cares who it was - were you federal, provincial or municipal - just with a good idea. If the people in an area develop the thing, it doesn't matter what group they are with because everybody would say this makes common sense for an area and things like that. It is good.
I think the other very positive thing, the RDAs are meeting on a regular basis. They don't meet because of a crisis, they don't meet because they are pushing something, they are meeting on a regular basis so they are certainly giving some strength to it. I guess one of the things that popped into my mind is I would just like some interesting comment. You say we are rather unique to other parts of Canada. How unique are we?
MR. ANDERSON: I believe we are the only system of this type in this country that is actually doing one-third/one-third/one-third. I know in a conference we were at, an EDAC conference, that B.C. - this is a year ago or whatever - was just totally flabbergasted with the fact that this system we have works so well because a lot of the provinces are still into 25/30/50/75, these organizations, whatever, which there is no question they are all good but that is inefficiency and they are not thinking regionally, they are not thinking just of their town or whatever. The province set up these regions and the regions basically are working quite well together but I do not know today of any other place in this country where there is a one-third/one-third/one-third. I know positively in Atlantic Canada we are the only one that operates under that system because in our presentation we showed you what happens in P.E.I. and Newfoundland, there isn't any municipal involvement, and in New Brunswick there are only three units involved.
I guess others have looked at what we are doing and I know in this particular case it was the B.C. economic development group who looked to copy what we are doing here. I think they are in the same situation as our province was in. There was just a proliferation like every municipal unit or every other one had its own industrial commission, its own economic development group or this, that or whatever, and at one time they counted them up and there were something like 100. I mean that is inefficient. It was just common sense, if you stood back, it was an industry unto itself, each one trying to do the same thing and not working collectively together. It was just totally inefficient. So this process works much better.
MR. CHATAWAY: Have any other provinces made enquiries about how we are doing?
MR. ANDERSON: In this particular case, B.C. was mostly the one that was enquiring. I don't know if the others have, but we deal with other economic development agencies. In Atlantic Canada we deal an awful lot north/south more so than we do east/west, but we do deal with Ontario occasionally and Quebec and in this particular case B.C.
MR. CHATAWAY: I don't have another question there but I did want to comment. Nova Scotia Business Incorporated, and we already discussed that, it is hopefully going in the right direction and things like that.
MR. ANDERSON: We're working with them as we speak today. I guess they are without a CAO but they will solve that situation, but that doesn't really truly affect us as such. Their offices are doing work for us and it seems to be working very, very well together right now.
But if I could, one other point, Richard did make a comment about the reality of life today. When the Shelburne sound stage did open, the municipal units were for that and they were pressing for that, and so forth, to try to diversify their economy. It was very nice the opening day that all the municipal units, mayors, wardens, councillors and everything from
Yarmouth were there and it will be the same thing this Saturday when we open our new call centre in Yarmouth, all of the mayors and wardens and councillors from Shelburne will be in Yarmouth County. Now, if that is not working regionally then I don't know what is.
They understand that if any part of a region is successful, the whole region is successful in that situation. That has taken a long, long time to bring together but it is working and they all do appreciate it, even though, there is no question, each one will fight for their particular municipal unit. But they understand the larger picture and if nothing else, we have done that in the last five or six years.
MR. CHATAWAY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Epstein, the last question.
MR. EPSTEIN: A couple of quick ones if I may. Mr. Anderson, when I was looking through the document I referred to before that laid out some of the specific examples of what it is that the RDAs have done, there were a couple that struck me as particularly interesting. One was the Retire to Cape Breton initiative and unless I am mistaken, I think some of the other RDAs might have explored this as well. Can you just tell me how this is working and what I am particularly wondering about is whether this is the kind of initiative that might be better attempted to be delivered at the provincial level rather than leaving each of the RDAs to deal with it?
MR. ANDERSON: I am aware of the one in Cape Breton and I am aware of the one in Kings County . . .
MR. EPSTEIN: Kings, it was Kings, that's right.
MR. ANDERSON: . . . retire to that particular zone and looking to bring retirees in because people are retiring younger and younger now and they are looking for retirees to come and start businesses, not just to come and live and so forth. I believe both programs, from talking to the individual RDAs about them, have been successful. In both cases the province and the federal government are involved already, they are not doing it solely unto their own. Now, if you came to our priorities in our region, we wouldn't have considered that a priority, we would have considered something else as a priority. But I guess there is that grassroots again.
Our region says, here are our priorities and you can sit there any one day and have 50 priorities and you are not going to really accomplish anything. You have certain targets you want to go after, certain sectors you are going to go after, and in turn those are your priorities. So each region is picking its priorities. Getting the buy-in of its community, getting the buy-in of its municipal units and then going to get the other partners to come into it. So
therefore, in ours, we did not look at a retirement program as a project that we would classify as the number one priority, we would put something else ahead of it.
I am not saying that somewhere down the road we won't look at that particular project, every one of the RDAs reasonably watches what the other RDAs are doing. Cape Breton's priorities, there is no question they are different than our priorities, as the Valley, as Halifax, so you pick your priorities, run with your projects that fit into that particular priority.
MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, a good point. How is the province involved in it?
MR. ANDERSON: I would imagine, and not knowing specifics of either one of them, that they would be involved in funding at one level or another. I know in the Cape Breton one they are. I am positive they were in the federal-provincial that was involved in the Kings County one too.
MR. EPSTEIN: I guess I was thinking about the promotion side of it rather than funding the RDA, because the province funds the RDA in part anyway.
MR. ANDERSON: No, but this would not be out of the core operating funds.
MR. EPSTEIN: I see, separately.
MR. ANDERSON: This is separate funding. Tourism, Economic Development, ACOA, HRDC and in turn if they are going to put a dollar into it, they have a say in how the process comes out into the actual promotion and how you do the promotion and so forth. So for that region it fit where it might not have fit the whole province-wide . . .
MR. EPSTEIN: I had another question. It had to do with the province's attempt now to attempt an energy strategy and I wondered if the RDAs participated in the process that was started by the release of the draft energy strategy in March or April of this year?
MR. ANDERSON: Some of the RDAs are involved. There is a committee set up for that. I am trying to remember which ones they are. I know there are three or four of them involved as far as right off the top. We are not, at this particular point, individually as RDAs.
MR. EPSTEIN: I see and would they have made written submissions, do you know?
MR. ANDERSON: I don't know that. I can't answer that question.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, thanks very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Epstein. I think, Mr. Hurlburt, you have a motion?
MR. HURLBURT: Yes, if you are finished with the witness.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, if there are no other questions. Does anybody else have questions?
Mr. Anderson, on behalf of the committee, we appreciate you coming here. I know for myself it was very informative and it is quite obvious that your knowledge, along with the other individuals who work for RDAs contribute to the success economically of our communities.
MR. ANDERSON: Thank you very much.
MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, I make the motion that we draft a letter, under the chairman's signature, to the minister responsible, the Honourable Gordon Balser, that it is crucial that this comes to the table and to a conclusion ASAP. I think that he should be the leader to get it to that conclusion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is in regard to the funding . . .
MR. HURLBURT: The funding of the RDAs for the long term, we have key employees in our province who are sitting on the fence now. They don't know if they are going to have a job tomorrow or not.
MR. DOWNE: I second that motion, Mr. Chairman.
MR. EPSTEIN: It is a very good idea, we also support this.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just on a point of order, I wonder do we want to include a letter to be sent to the federal minister as well acknowledging our support for RDAs?
MR. HURLBURT: My letter is to the Minister of Economic Development only.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Provincially?
MR. HURLBURT: That is my motion.
MR. EPSTEIN: Maybe we can encourage the provincial minister to go after . . .
MR. HURLBURT: You have heard the man say, somebody has to take the leadership role here and do something so there is your . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, there is a motion on the floor. The question has been called. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
I will just revert back now to the ordinary chairman.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, you are doing a fine job. I just wonder as far as the future agenda goes, I would like to inform the committee that I was recently approached by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. They requested that they would like to come in and make a presentation to this committee. I did take the liberty to talk to our very capable clerk, Darlene. They would like to come in the week of September 24th. On September 25th, whereas they are having a meeting out at the airport, they felt that they would like to come in sometime in the a.m. and the only time that is really available because of other committee meetings is around 11:30 a.m. on September 25th, which is two weeks from today. I don't know what other committee members think but they do have what seem to be very pressing concerns and they would like to come before the committee, make a presentation, entertain questions and so on and so forth.
Mr. Chairman, I would make a motion that we invite the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture in on September 25th at 11:30 a.m.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I am not sure, as long as we are in agreement, is a motion required by the other caucuses as long as we are in agreement?
MR. HOLM: It is not on the scheduled meetings, I don't think, so it would be an adjustment to the agenda, so a motion would be proper.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Moved by Mr. Taylor, seconded by my colleague, Don Downe.
MR. HOLM: Question.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The question has been called for. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, if I might, Darlene, you may want to comment on the two meetings that you have tentatively scheduled as well.
MRS. DARLENE HENRY (Legislative Committee Clerk): I have tentatively booked October 2nd and October 23rd but because of September 25th now, I am going to bump those
up a week because then you will be meeting back to back. If you meet on September 25th, you will be coming in next week on October 2nd and I know you like to go biweekly.
MR. HURLBURT: I think that is a great idea.
MR. HOLM: The only question that I have - and I am not a member - do we know if the other two meetings that you would be bumping, if those witnesses would be available? Would Mr. L'Esperance be available a week later and would the President of Sable Offshore Energy, for example, be available?
MRS. HENRY: That is a question that is in the air right now. I can't answer for sure if they will be available but it is something that I can ask them and if they are agreeable, then we will go with those dates.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is fair. Is there any other committee business?
The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 2:31 p.m.]