FedNor axes Local Initiatives Program

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORE BAY—Funding from FedNor for the Local Initiatives Program, administered by the LaCloche-Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC), the fund that has benefited and supported many municipalities and not-for-profit organizations on Manitoulin Island in the past, has been cancelled.

“It certainly seems as if Northern Ontario is being forgotten more and more and the needs of our municipalities and groups are being ignored,” stated Ken Noland, chair of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) and reeve of Burpee-Mills Township on being told of the funding cuts.

“This is a sad situation, as a director of the LAMBAC board and as a municipal representative,” said Austin Hunt, mayor of Billings Township. “LAMBAC provides about $50,000-55,000 each year to municipalities and groups. I’m sorry to see this cut in funding; this is one of the small grants that have provided benefits all around Manitoulin, not just for municipalities, but organizations. The projects funded through this provided an awful good bang for the community and brought benefits to everyone.”

In an email to many municipalities and organizations in the LaCloche-Manitoulin area, Mary Nelder, manager of LAMBAC, stated last Friday, “I regret to inform you that the Local Initiatives Program (LIP), or LIC, administered through LAMBAC and funded by FedNor has been cancelled. As individuals representing not for profit organizations and municipalities that have benefited from this program in the past, I know you will share our disappointment at this news.”

An announcement had been made by Aime Dimatteo, director general of FedNor, stating, “as reaffirmed in its Economic Action Pan 2012, the government of Canada has been closely examining spending across all federal departments and agencies to improve its efficiency in delivering programs to Canadians and to support the government’s commitment to return to balanced budgets. As a result, FedNor’s core funding program, the Northern Development Program, will be reduced on a phased-in basis for a total of $4.46 million by 2014-2015. As part of the overall reduction, FedNor will no long fund Local Initiatives Contributions (LICs) as of April 11, 2012. All current LIC agreements will be honoured until their expiry.”

“The Northern Ontario Development Program will continue to focus on community economic development, business growth and competitiveness, and innovation,” wrote Mr. Dimatteo. “This will enable FedNor to invest in strategic projects with significant economic development potential that are in line with government priorities.”

“I wish to emphasize that this reduction will not affect the budget of FedNor’s Community Futures Program or our commitment to the operations of Northern Ontario’s 24 Community Futures Development Corporations,” said Mr. Dimatteo.

Ms. Nelder explained that with the announcement, “we regret that we will no longer be able to offer the Local Initiatives grant as one of the tools available for small-scale community-based projects. Our current contract with FedNor for this fund ends as of June 30, 2012 and will not be renewed.”

“As you can see from this message, the good news is that the core funding for LAMBAC and the other 23 Community Futures Development Corporations across Northern Ontario has not been reduced,” said Ms. Nelder in her email. “We will continue to work with our communities, our business people and our not-for-profit corporations to strengthen the economy of Manitoulin and LaCloche.”

Peter Williams, senior communications officer with FedNor, explained in an email, “FedNor, along with other federal departments and agencies, will implement expenditure reductions to improve its efficiency in delivering programs to Northern Ontarians and to support the government’s commitment to return to balanced budgets.”

“A specific measure as part of this general reduction is that (LIC) funding to (CFD’s) will be phased out as existing agreements expire,” wrote Mr. Williams. “FedNor will focus its resources on larger-scale, strategic projects that have the potential to contribute to jobs and growth and stronger economic development prospects in the North.”

“Expenditure reductions will not affect the budget of FedNor’s Community Futures Program or its commitment to the operations of Northern Ontario’s 24 Community Futures Development Corporations,” wrote Mr. Williams.

Ms. Nelder told the Recorder between 30-35 municipalities and organizations in the LaCloche-Manitoulin area benefit from this project funding each year. “This program, in my opinion, has been one of the most successful and effective in benefiting groups and community activities, and I am disappointed with the news the program funding has been cut, but in tough times what can you do?”

The Old Mill Heritage Centre has been one of the benefactors of the funding over the years. “I’m very disappointed with the announcement, because it has benefited not only our museum but other museums on the Island,” said Rick Nelson, curator of the museum in Kagawong.

It was through the program grants, “that we have been able to blow up a lot of pictures for our displays like the Daniel Dodge display, Harbor Island, and the new lighthouse exhibit we will have in the museum this summer,” said Mr. Nelson. “We couldn’t have enlarged these photos without this grant.

Mr. Nelson, who is also co-chair of the Manitoulin Lighthouse Association, said “Without this funding program we would not have been able to hire a consultant to look at all the lighthouses on Manitoulin for their structural and building integrity, which was required to be done.”

“We’re one of the last groups to be accepted for funding under this program for the Kagawong pickerel project (with the United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin),” said Mike Meeker. “It’s a damn shame a program like this is being cut. When the government looks at cuts, this is one of those funding programs I think they should maintain, because they are applied directly to specific community projects that benefit the entire community.”