By Lawrence Powell
Annapolis County council wants the province to know Bowater Mersey’s recent closure announcement will have serious implications on the County of Annapolis.
A letter is being prepared to the Premier’s office expressing council’s concern regarding the economic impact of the closure of Bowater Mersey on Annapolis County residents and businesses.
“This was devastating news that will be felt by many municipalities,” said Annapolis County Warden Reg Ritchie on Wednesday, June 20. “It was even more discouraging to learn the County of Annapolis was not included in the Economic Transition Initiative that is being developed by the Province of Nova Scotia.”
The same day, Premier Darrell Dexter said government was forming a provincial response team to deal with the Bowater closure.
The Bowater Response Team will bring together expertise and resources from across government for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to get supports and services for the people and families who need them.
Annapolis County wasn’t included.
Jeff Larsen, Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism executive director of investment and trade, and Allan Eddy, Department of Natural Resources senior director, will lead the response team, the province said. It will also include resources from the departments of Labour and Advanced Education, Natural Resources, Community Services, Energy, and Nova Scotia Business Inc.
The team will support transition advisor Ron Smith, who was appointed earlier this week to help communities impacted by the Bowater mill closing, map their future. The provincial team will take options and ideas submitted by Smith's transition committee and determine what the province can do to implement them.
The province's response team is also identifying all provincial supports, programs and services that can help impacted families and make them available.
Presently, the only municipalities involved in the initiative are the counties of Queens and Lunenburg, but Annapolis County council feels the County of Annapolis should be part of this endeavour.
“The Bowater Mersey plant is only about 60 kilometres away from the County of Annapolis border so we have a lot of people and businesses who will be affected by this closure,” said Ritchie. “There are individuals who have purchased thousands and thousands of dollars worth of forestry equipment, people who depend on the forestry industry and Bowater to make a living. The County of Annapolis is home to numerous large parcels of Bowater land. We need the same consideration as Queens and Luneburg counties. Our residents need to the opportunity to have their input into this initiative. Municipal council feels the County of Annapolis should be part of the process.”
Response Team Focus
The response team will focus on three key areas:
-- Community Adjustment: Help community, workers and businesses through transition. Increase and diversify the local skills base.
-- Economic Diversification: Identify growth opportunities in key sectors. Implement strategies to attract investment and create jobs. Support entrepreneurship.
-- Forestry Transition and Supply Chain: Pursue opportunities to support the forestry sector. Transition regional forestry sector and supply chain. Identify short, medium and long term opportunities for forestry innovation.