Provincial reps recommend six county units join same REN

Christopher Cameron
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WESTVILLE – The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be drawing closer.

All six municipal units from Pictou County met Wednesday afternoon in Westville with representatives from the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism to further discuss Regional Enterprise Networks. The meeting was an information session, with no timeframe on when units need to make a decision on which REN they will join.

These RENs were brought in after the Regional Development Authorities were disbanded, with the focus on promoting economic development in Nova Scotia.

When the province initially put this plan forward Pictou County was slated to be part of REN 5, but after Wednesday’s meeting the units seemed interested in joining REN 4, which involves towns in Cumberland and Colchester counties.

The Municipality of Pictou County has already started the process to join REN 4. Warden Ron Baillie said they are currently creating an inter-government agreement and expect that to be finalized by late August. Once that is done the councils involved in REN 4 will have the opportunity to look at it and move forward to creating their REN by the end of the year or earlier.

“We’re basically moving forward, but it’s still not a done deal because we’ve gotta wait to see what the inter-government agreement looks like, but we’re definitely leaning towards REN 4 as far as the municipality goes,” he said.

Joe Hawes, mayor of Pictou, said this was his third meeting on the creation of RENs and called it the most informative in regards to whether they move from REN 5 to REN 4. He said the government has dedicated a set amount of money to each REN, so they will lose in one regard by not going on their own, but with a larger population in REN 4 there will be more money, which will offset any losses of not going out on their own.

“We have to decide which is best for us, but the thing is we should go as six, not fractured – three one way and three another – we’ll have to go as all six,” said Hawes. “The key there too again is the biggest ones, New Glasgow and the county, if they decide – they’re actually deciding for us in that sense.”

Deputy Mayor of Westville, Lennie White, had discussed prior to the meeting that he hoped the six units could discuss their options and hear from Warden Baillie about their reasons for deciding on REN 4. White said they had a positive discussion and although decisions weren’t made during the meeting, they better understand the county’s reasoning and will take that into consideration.

“The question was asked why they chose to do that and we got a good explanation and good reasoning,” said White. “Just historical reasons, sort of the natural movement of people back and forth between our area and that area, so it looks like coming out of this discussion there was certainly the idea of moving towards the REN 4 as opposed to the REN 5 that had originally been designated for us to be in by the province.”

White stated that the department representatives strongly recommended that all six join one REN together and that he doesn’t think the Municipality of Pictou County already having their minds made up will affect the other five units’ decisions.

“I think it’s important that each unit makes the decision based on their own idea of what’s best for them, but the hope would be that certainly all six would come to the same conclusion, that that’s the direction we need to go, towards REN 4,” he said. “It was pointed out by the representatives from the department that their wish would be that all six units were in the same REN, whatever that might be.”

 

SIDEBAR

What does a REN do?

1. RENs will develop, implement, and monitor a regional economic development strategy that is reflective of provincial and regional (participating municipal and First Nation band councils) economic development priorities.

2. RENs will cultivate close working relationships with the business community and work with key partners to support the development and attraction of new businesses, and to retain and expand existing businesses.

3. RENs will inform partners and stakeholders about local business-climate conditions as well as regional challenges and opportunities.

*Source: Government of Nova Scotia

Organizations: Regional Enterprise Networks, Department of Economic and Rural Development

Geographic location: Pictou County, Westville, Nova Scotia Cumberland Colchester New Glasgow

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