PEI·Exclusive

Funding cut 35% for P.E.I. sector councils

The P.E.I. government has cut its support for a collection of industry support groups by 35 per cent.

Focus shifting to permanent job creation, says government

Culture P.E.I. may have to shut down, say executive director Mark Sandiford. (CBC)

The P.E.I. government has cut its support for a collection of industry support groups by 35 per cent.

The councils co-ordinate specific industry sectors, compiling labour market information for the province and working toward common goals.

  • P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council
  • Culture P.E.I.
  • Innovation and Technology Association of P.E.I.
  • Aerospace P.E.I.
  • P.E.I. BioAlliance
  • P.E.I. Health Sector Council
  • P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council
  • Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
  • Canadian Home Builders Association

In 2014, the sector councils' total funding was $1.145 million. This year it's $767,000.

Funding for Culture P.E.I., for example, has been cut by 39 per cent.

In 2014, the council received $141,000, which dropped to $83,900 this year. That amount is split into two payments - $46,400 for the first four months and then, because the cut is coming four months into the year, the council has to operate on $37,500 for the next eight months, says executive director Mark Sandiford.

"We've gone into scramble mode here. I've been working on nothing but spreadsheets over the past couple of days trying to figure out what we can do. And I put zeros in every item: zero rent, zero phone, zero internet, all the way down. Zero in projects," said Sandiford.

"And if you do that, we still don't have enough money to get us through to the end of the year. So we're really looking now at potentially shutting down in January or February.

Sandiford questions the cut, given a Canadian survey that shows 2,000 Islanders work in the culture sector, 70 per ent of them self-employed. The cultural sector contributes almost four per cent of the Island's GDP, according to Sandiford, and that's the third highest economic contribution in the country, after Quebec and Ontario.

Focus on jobs

Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Richard Brown said not all the sector councils' work has led to full-time job creation, and that's the new focus of Skills PEI.
Advocacy for industries was no longer enough, says workforce minister Richard Brown. (CBC)

"The sector councils were basically becoming an advocacy for the groups, which is good, and what I'm saying is if you're working for your organization and your membership should be putting up some of the money also then," said Brown.

"We want long-term jobs for people that are unemployed currently. We don't want short-term work for people, we want long-term work."

Brown says the $378,000 the department saving through these cuts is being added to Skills PEI's job training fund.

Brown says it's already partnered with 27 businesses through that fund this year.

Question of the day: Is the government moving in the right direction with its cuts to sector council funding?

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