Municipal leaders say they’re in dark on new regional development plan

Sueann Musick
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PICTOU – Local municipal leaders say they have more questions than answers about what will eventually replace the services of the Pictou Regional Development Agency.

County Warden Ron Baillie said mayors and wardens from 11 municipal units recently met with members of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to go over plans for the new Regional Economic Network that will replace the existing RDAs, but left the meeting with little decided.

“I don’t feel the change will benefit us,” he said. “They said they are going to change the focus a bit, but what the focus will be, we don’t know.”

The RENs will be funded jointly by the province and municipalities since the federal government announced an end to its funding to RDAs in May. The 12 RDAs in the province currently operate on a $6.3 million budget, split between three levels of government.

As of March 31, the Pictou Regional Development Agency, along with 11 other RDAs in the province will no longer exist, but six new RENs are expected to take their place.

Baillie said the new REN for this area will involve 11 municipalities made up of Pictou and Antigonish counties as well as St. Mary’s and Sherbrooke which resides in a section of the HRM.

He said the funding formula for the RENs has not been approved yet, but right now it looks like it would be based on population or assessment value. Either way, this means Pictou County will be paying the largest piece of the pie.

The Municipality of Pictou County alone would have to contribute 29 per cent of the funding and counting each municipality in Pictou County as part of the REN, the county would end up providing two-thirds of the funding.

“For me, there is no initiative to join the REN,” he said. “We have still have access to ACOA and all the departments the provincial departments through our own staff.”

Trenton Mayor Glen MacKinnon said the issue definitely needs some clarity before councils can decide what is in the best interest of their residents.

“We are suppose to have a clearer picture of around the first of February,” he said. “They will take the findings from each meeting they held and hopefully things will be clearer so we can use that information and go forward.”

Baillie said his council hasn’t formally discussed the issue and it will wait until more details are available before making any decisions.

Organizations: Pictou Regional Development Agency, Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities

Geographic location: Pictou County, Antigonish, Trenton

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