TRURO - Disbanding the local regional economic development agency was the wrong move, according to a former executive director.
Bob Baxter, who held the executive director position of the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce, voiced his opinions during a Mayors' Breakfast on Wednesday.
"To disband CoRDA was not the answer," said Baxter about the Colchester Regional Development Agency that was shut down at the end of January to make way for a new Regional Enterprise Network (REN). "To fix CoRDA was the answer. The worst thing now is that we'll have competition, not co-operation."
Baxter shared his views to Town of Truro Mayor Bill Mills, Town of Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson, and Colchester County Mayor Bob Taylor. Missing was Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade, due to an urgent family matter.
"You all say the Ivany Report is well written and it's well accepted, but I think disbanding CoRDA was a wrong-head decision. We don't need economic development officers competing with each other.
"I think it's a terrible, terrible mistake by having more than one economic development officer in Colchester County. It's all about the corridor from Moncton to Halifax. We need one organization ...one focus."
Mills agreed with Baxter in that there could've been a different result if things had been done differently.
"I believe if we had re-tooled CoRDA, we'd be in a better place," said Mills, adding about two years have been wasted in the process to try and get the REN in place. "Ray Ivany didn't say it in the Ivany Report, but he did say it at UNSM - our culture in Nova Scotia is that we would rather fight than eat and we have to get over that."
Robinson said Stewiacke is unlikely to have its own economic development officer due to its size and believes everyone will benefit no matter where a new business sets up shop.
"We know that the town will benefit," she said. "We know that the better the province does, the better Stewiacke does. If a business opens in Halifax, maybe residents will move into Stewiacke. We're certainly all-inclusive and want to be included. We don't want to be competitive."
Taylor explained to the crowd of business people that it was the federal government to pull funding to the agencies first, followed by the province.
"We were the only ones left in," said Taylor. "We have a lot going on in Colchester County, in the Debert industrial park and the Kemptown industrial park. We need to work with the businesses we do have.
"We need to spend more money on our own economic community here."
During the breakfast, another hot topic was amalgamation, with all three mayors bringing up their concerns.
Robinson said those in Stewiacke like having a say in some of the decisions that are made, and doesn't think amalgamation should occur "just to save money."
For Mills, the question he asked was whether amalgamation worked in both Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton Regional Municipalities when it comes to both cost savings and service delivery.
Taylor said studies have been done in the past and the biggest savings come from shared services, which is being done between the municipalities in a number of aspects.