Let’s make this perfectly clear, I support Cabot Links and recognize the impact that Cabot has on our community. I also realize that much of our infrastructure needs funding; we need more affordable and better housing; we need to attract more doctors; and we need to find solutions to a multitude of issues.
I also know that government invests in community projects to stimulate and sustain economic development. We saw massive amounts of funding going to Port Hawkesbury over the years; money being plowed into the coal and steel industry; the Halifax shipyards being propped up; a massive Convention Centre in Halifax; and on and on. Recently 21 million dollars has been allocated for a bicycle path in Halifax.
Government officials make decisions on funding projects. Recently, federal officials suggested that 18 million dollars toward a commercial airport in the Inverness area might be a good investment.
They obviously thought that it might stimulate and help to sustain the thriving tourism industry in western Cape Breton. They thought that it might lead to economic growth in the area. Growth, a ghastly word to some, might create more and better jobs; attract young families with children who would fill our schools; help sustain and attract private investment in the area; attract professionals to the area, who may want to live here but are dissuaded by travel issues; and showcase the beauty and attractions of the area as well as the music and culture that abounds from Judique to our Acadian communities.
Of course, Port Hawkesbury, with the history of the pulp mill, oil refineries, heavy water, county court, and a $10 million recreation centre, would also like to have this airport funding so they could prop up their local airport, which was in demise prior to the Cabot Links development.
In fact, the federal government is interested in funding this airport in Inverness because it thinks that this location is best suited for it. We also know that this federal money will not be transferred to local or provincial projects. A different funding source will inevitably take care of our roads and water issues.
Let’s take a look at the $18 million to be invested in a commercial airport in Inverness. Where will the money go? Will it be siphoned off to a Swiss bank account where government officials will eventually have it as a personal slush fund? That’s just one of the conspiracy theories that are out there. In reality, the money will be spent on jobs – labourers, clerical workers, truckers, suppliers, heavy equipment operators, tradesman, etc. The $18 million will be put back into the economy and will stimulate an economic boom in Inverness. Who knows, it might attract a young entrepreneur who has a dream and an idea that people dismiss summarily but may succeed.
Earlier, I mentioned sustainability. We have a thriving tourism industry now which is crying out for more attractions. We must guarantee the sustainability of our current attractions and create more. An airport in Inverness will go a long way to help sustain what we already have and encourage other entrepreneurs to invest in our area. The tourism industry needs travellers to come to our area and leave their dollars with us. The number one industry in Scotland is golf tourism. We have already made a big stride in that direction. An airport will help to provide sustainability to our tourism industry.
What about the tax base that is being generated by building projects all over the county? In the Inverness area alone, Route 19 Restaurant and Brewery, the Cape Breton Villas, the Glenora Distillery expansion, and the villas at Cabot Links add significant dollars to the county tax base. What are the tax implications of 40,000 rounds of golf at the Cabot golf courses? Buildings are cropping up all over the county and contributing to county revenues. Tax revenues will increase with further development and help to fund upgrades to our county roads and water systems.
It is disheartening when our own county council cannot see the forest for the trees. We need economic growth to survive. Just look at our school population and ask yourself, “Do we need growth in our economy?” Is Councillor MacQuarrie the only one who sees the potential of this development. I am shocked and surprised that Inverness Councillor Jim Mustard, who I supported vigorously in the past, has not been able to come to grips with the potential of this opportunity. I hope that he will reconsider his stand on this crucial issue. Other councillors should also see long-term benefits that can help their constituents.
All government projects offer opportunity. They don’t always work but to assume that they will fail is not leadership. We just cannot walk away from this amazing opportunity. Who is standing up for Inverness on this vital issue? It is time for our leaders to lead.