Think tank suggests authorities should be abolished

AMHERST – A Nova Scotia think tank is suggesting the province abolish its regional development authorities including the Cumberland Regional Development Authority.

In the paper ‘Nova Scotians Without Borders,’ Atlantic Institute of Market Studies director of research Don McIver said regional development strategies in Canada have failed to improve the economies of their target regions.

“A benefit to being a nation is the absence of barriers to the mobility of money and labour,” said McIver. “But current industrial policies attempt to get businesses to relocate to areas of surplus labour instead of helping people get jobs where their skills are in demand.”

McIver said the province has provided financial incentive to companies to operate in areas of high unemployment. These initiatives have failed, he said.

“In fact, the regions that have received the most development initiatives for the longest periods still have the highest unemployment and greatest population out-migration,” he said.

He said industrial and economic development strategies need to focus on people instead of subsidies to business.

In Cumberland County, McIver said CREDA has engaged in numerous activities to promote local amenities, but has also taken an active facilitation and management role in the creation of several high profile new tourist attractions including the Joggins Fossil Centre and Cape Chignecto.

“The difficulty arises when it becomes evident that such initiatives are not capable of becoming self-sustaining, let along contributing to the sustainability of economic growth in Cumberland County,” McIver said in the paper. “These projects will not expire. However, their maintenance will only be possible by further infusions of capital and operating contributions from outside Cumberland – and that’s not what CREDA was established for.”

The alternative, he said, would be to further increase the financial liability of the shrinking population, leaving them with legacy costs that could accelerate out-migration and diminish economic sustainability.

He said since the Regional Development Act, creating the RDAs was passed, Cumberland has seen a 7.5 per cent drop in its population.

Rhonda Kelly, executive director of the Cumberland Regional Development Authority, was not available for comment on Tuesday.