KENTVILLE - The Destination Southwest Nova Association is winding down operations and will soon cease to exist.
With a significant debt load and no funds in the bank, the membership has voted in favour of a motion to commence a wind-down process, effective March 16.
Board president Ken Langille said staff has been given their layoff notices, as the organization canât pay them beyond that date.
âWeâve effectively ended an organization here folks,â Langille said following the vote, held at a special general board meeting at the County of Kings municipal complex in Kentville on March 12.
The membership has also voted to empower the board to appoint a trustee to assist in the wind-down process, if necessary. Langille said the current board would be through once a trustee is appointed.
Financial review and finance audit chairwoman Joanne Veinotte, who joined the meeting via teleconference, said the associationâs remaining balance of roughly $7,000 would be used to cover the last payroll. They ended the last fiscal year with a deficit of more than $74,000.
The organization has enough money to pay back a secured creditor, the Canada Revenue Agency, in accordance with a court order. The tourism association had been given a $57,000 HST overpayment, which the association used to help fund operations.
Langille said the association later discovered this and self-reported it to the CRA. There has been no misuse or misappropriation of funds, he said. However, there is approximately $100,000 in debt that the association doesnât have the money to repay.
Langille said the board decided in September to have an audit review of the tourism association conducted. Working with the board and staff for about a month-and-a-half, the review was conducted by Grant Thornton.
Veinotte said it became clear at the end of February that the associationâs financial challenges were âinsurmountableâ and they couldnât continue operating. Langille said the situation has evolved over a number of years and said one problem was the governance structure. The board didnât have strong oversight of budgeting and finances.
Another problem is that itâs been âalmost impossibleâ to brand the area. The association represents about 160 current members from Hubbards to Windsor.
âItâs been a struggle for the organization to market the region as one unified area,â Langille said, adding that perhaps the brand should be a âfishing boat with an Acadian farmer drinking a bottle of wine.â
Langille said industry is the key part in this. DSWNA is a member-driven model and municipalities donât want to fund an organization not strongly supported by its membership.
âItâs broke. Thatâs the reality. Itâs not working,â Langille said.
He said that perhaps, âin its dying breath,â the board could work with the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency to set up a meeting with industry representatives to decide how to proceed with destination marketing. He suggested that perhaps a new model could be identified that stakeholders would be comfortable with.
Nova Scotia Tourism Agency CEO Patrick Sullivan said the model that is currently DSWNA has to be fixed. They want to work with industry stakeholders and municipalities to come up with a new model.
âDuplication isnât a good thing,â he said.
However, he said this situation could create a great opportunity if everyone works together.