Opposition MLA questions premier’s commitment to rural businesses
A government office that offered a “one-stop-shop” for small- to medium-sized businesses in the central area of the province has closed after funding for the Bedeque Rural Action Centre was not renewed Sept. 30.
That news has Borden-Carleton MLA Jamie Fox questioning the P.E.I. government’s commitment to rural businesses.
“If the premier is serious and he says he supports rural P.E.I., ...then where’s their commitment?”
Fox says he’s spoken to businesses in the area that relied on having the centre in the community. Small business owners may now have to travel to Aber ton to get the same services.
“It was a service that they could count on and go to.”
Gordon Coffin, chairman of the Central Development Corporation, which shared space in the same Central Bedeque building, says he has written to the province about the closure but hasn’t heard back.
Currently, the CDC is operating as usual. The Rural Action Centre was well used over the years, said Coffin.
“The area we’ve served has been from Borden, Crapaud to Kensington to the North Shore.” Keeping business services available in rural areas is key to the health of the province, he said.
“It’s something that is important to the community. There has to be a focus remain there because it’s too easy to be centralized. It’s where people live, it’s where people work, it’s very important to keep those components vital.”
Amie Swallow MacDonald, director of the Department of Rural and Regional Development, was involved in the decision for a joint re view of the Rural Action Centres.
After eight years, government wanted to make sure the program was still meeting the needs of rural Islanders and that “resources were getting used the best they can be”.
The review found that Bedeque’s centre had the fewest on-site resources and the least amount of foot-traffic, Swallow MacDonald said.
No jobs were lost in the closing of the Bedeque centre because the staff who would have been laid off had already moved on.
The department was actually having trouble hiring new people.
“We’re taking this time right now to finish the strategic plan and see where we’re going forward,” said Swallow MacDonald.
She said government will “definitely have something figured out by the new fiscal year”.
“We’re going to work to make sure that we’re still continuing to serve that area, it just may look a little differently.”