Nova Scotia

N.S. economic dev't groups prepare for budget cut

Regional economic development agencies in Nova Scotia are looking ahead to a big budget cut next year when ACOA pulls its funding.

Regional economic development agencies in Nova Scotia are looking ahead to a big budget cut next year when the Atlantic Canada Opportunities agency pulls its funding.

The federal government plans to withdraw its funding in May 2013, which means a loss of one-third of each regional development group's annual operating budget.

In Nova Scotia, that cut amounts to $2.1 million a year.

The Colchester Regional Development Association hopes to maintain programs, including one that has helped dozens of immigrants settle in rural areas.

"If all else fails and there's absolutely no way for us to increase our revenue, yes, those services could change to some degree," said Ron Smith, the association's executive director.

The Conservative government says the core funding that used to go to Smith's group and others across Atlantic Canada will be transferred directly to small- and medium-sized businesses and communities.

It says it will consider funding projects that are sponsored by regional agencies.

"To me, it's a change, not necessarily an elimination. There are other models that may work," said Andrew Button, executive director of the Lunenburg Queens Regional Development Agency.

Municipalities and provincial governments provide two-thirds of these groups' funding.

What will the Nova Scotia government do?

"We would be hard-pressed when we are looking at our own financial situation to be able to pick up any slack. I think the federal involvement is vital," said Percy Paris, minister of economic and rural development and tourism.

No layoffs planned in Cape Breton

Approximately 100 people work for the regional development agencies in the province.

The Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority, which stands to lose $185,000, has no plans to lay off staff, says CEO Eileen Lannon Oldford.

"We're looking at gaps that need to be filled and to be efficient and effective and no duplication, and I think that's where ACOA is moving in its assessment,' she said.

"So we're hoping to look at and assess how we can fill that $185,000 through project delivery or another process."

Last year, the CBCEDA was involved in nearly 170 local projects.

With files from the CBC's Jennifer Henderson and Joan Weeks