© Submitted photo
Former Egmont MP Gail Shea, left, and Tignish Initiatives general Manager Anne Arsenault announcing last July 31 that funding had been secured for the Stompin’ Tom Connors commemoration project at Skinners Pond. Work on the project is on hold at least until a review of the overall project is completed. The review was triggered when Canadian Heritage rejected Tignish Initiatives’ request for a $350,000 contribution.
Former MP says department could have found way to move Stompin’ Tom project forward
It’s a project proposal, Gail Shea admits she had been trying to secure for close to two decades. On Aug. 3, just the day before the 2015 federal election was called, Shea, who, at the time, was the minister of fisheries, participated in the unveiling of plans for the Tignish Initiatives commemoration project at Skinners Pond. The house where Tom Connors lived and the school he attended as a boy were to be part of the project. A cultural and entertainment venue was to be added.
“The bulk of the funding was secured by last June and so the announcement was made because, as you know, all goes on hold during what was a very long election campaign,” Shea explained via an email response.
By getting the announcement made prior to the writ being dropped, she explained, it allowed Tignish Initiatives to get started with some of the planning for the project.
Canadian Heritage subsequently rejected Tignish Initiatives’ funding request. They were counting on $350,000. The shortfall has prompted other funders to order a review of the project, thus putting preparations on hold at least until the review is completed.
The refusal, Shea maintains, was based on a technicality.
“My understanding is that Heritage Canada told the group that, because they didn’t have ‘heritage and culture’ as part of their mandate, they could not qualify.
“My understanding is that Tignish Initiatives added heritage and culture to their mandate at their AGM last year,” Shea said.
As the clock ticked towards the election, Shea said Canadian Heritage displayed a willingness to work with Tignish Initiatives on the project, only to deny the application later on grounds that heritage needed to be part of the group’s mandate for two years.
“If Heritage Canada can’t find a way to support a project that commemorates Stompin’ Tom Connors, a legendary Canadian, a true patriot of our country, who wrote and sang songs about every corner of our beautiful country, who has been recognized by the Queen, the Governor General; whose family was presented the Canadian flag from the Peace Tower on his passing, who had his own Canadian postage stamp and who was made an officer of the Order of Canada, then maybe Heritage Canada has some changes to make,” Shea said.
“They obviously don’t understand rural Canada. We don’t have multiple organizations that drive community development.”
She expressed her belief that the project can still go ahead as planned, if elected representatives want it to happen.