Richmond County ditches $6.6M tourism strategy after 3 years

A Cape Breton, N.S., council has cancelled a multi-million dollar tourism strategy because it can no longer afford to pay its portion of the cost, a county warden said Friday.

Brian Marchand, warden of the Municipality of Richmond County, said costs climbed while the municipality waited for the province to kick in its one-third share of the funding.

"The six or so tenders that have come in, the pricing was about 30 per cent over and above what we thought the estimates were going to be, so on a $6.6 million project that's potentially a $2.2 million overrun," he said. 

"Looking at our finances and what we do have in reserves — which has dwindled — we decided it wasn't feasible for us to go forward."  

3-tiered funding falls apart

In April 2014, the municipality committed $2.2 million to the strategy's funding.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency matched that amount. At the announcement, MLA Michel Samson committed $100,000 from the province and indicated the province would be an equal partner.

The province said it would provide its share if the municipality could guarantee the project had not changed since 2014. Marchand said the municipality could not make that guarantee. 

​The initiative planned to focus on three brands: St. Peter's Canal as "where the ocean meets the inland sea"; Isle Madame as "Isle of 100 coves" and Cape Breton Blueways.

"What we want to do going forward is have the groups come to us with a proposal and see if we can get some money from the three levels of government," Marchand said. 

Hope some projects will go ahead

The Isle Madame Tourism and Trade Association had planned to carry out a $650,000 facade program on as many as 25 properties. 

Lisa Boudreau, president of the association, said the project has a solid business case and she is confident it will be funded. She expects the costs will be shared 50/50 between ACOA and the private sector. 

"I honestly believe at the end of the day everyone will come back with a better project," she said.

Amanda Mombourquette, executive director of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed. 

"I see people working together more passionately and more frequently on projects that can have a real economic benefit to the community. To me that is the bright spot," she said.