Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) hopes a new economic model can fill the void left by defunct regional economic development boards.
Nearly two years ago, the Atlantic Canada Opportunties Agency cut funding for regional economic groups in the Atlantic provinces, opting to focus on investing directly in small- and medium-sized businesses. Bernard Valcourt, then the minister for the agency, called regional boards a “layer of intervention” that “adds no value to the end product, which is job creation and wealth creation, which are the objectives of those programs.”
Boards and opposition MPs disagreed, and the Northeast Avalon board vowed last year to soldier on by focusing on self-funding through advertising on its website and other revenue-generating activities.
Friday, MNL announced a new collaborative economic plan it hopes will pick up where the boards left off.
“When the regional economic development boards were eliminated a couple of years ago, it left a void in terms of co-ordinating economic development, and it left a void for us, for MNL, because we’ve been pretty active in encouraging our members in being involved in economic development,” said Craig Pollett, MNL’s chief executive officer, on Friday. “But it was always in the context of dealing with an umbrella group that was within your region. There was a body there co-ordinating everything.”
When the boards vanished, MNL started working on a new way to help municipalities boost economic development, and have formed a caucus to represent the 20 largest municipalities in the province to conduct joint research and share expertise on economic development, following a summit last year of those towns to see how they can work together.
“We’re not going to share trade secrets, obviously, but approaches to economic development and that sort of thing,” said Pollett.
What came out of the summit was the idea of an accord that municipalities will sign, agreeing to work together.
“It’s not a legal document, but it’s symbolic, and it expresses for everyone involved the goals that we have,” he said.