Gabriola funding in limbo as Nanaimo removes tourism from NEDC

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 8 2016

Taxpayers of the southern part of the Regional District of Nanaimo are going to have to wait until a staff report is issued to find out what will happen with the tax money they currently pay towards the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDC).

Between Electoral Areas A, B, and C, $192,000 was budgeted to be payed to the NEDC starting in 2017.

Howard Houle, Regional Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, Decourcy islands) said this past week he is waiting on a staff report before he can discuss what will happen to that funding.

The issue is that on October 17, the City Council of Nanaimo made an announcement they would be focusing the mandate of the NEDC) exclusively on the advancement and growth of economic development.

To do this, according to the press release issued by the City, tourism and destination marketing, each previously administered by the NEDC, will now be combined with conference marketing services and delivered through one or more alternative service providers. In other words, Tourism Nanaimo will no longer be a part of the NEDC.

On Monday, October 24, the then-Chief Executive Officer john Hankins issued an op-ed to media highly critical of the City Council’s decision, saying that no where in the City’s recent $228,900 “Core Services Review” was there a recommendation from staff to separate economic development from tourism.

Within two days, Hankins was fired from his job by the NEDC board, as the op-ed was not issued with the approval of the Board.

NEDC Chair Andre Sullivan, in a press release issued on October 26, said, “To oversee daily operations while it pursues options to select a new CEO, the board has appointed Amrit Manhas Acting CEO.

 “We, the board of the NEDC, have the full confidence in the abilities of staff to continue to do the great work of the organization. We think the Nanaimo region has great potential for economic growth and we look forward to helping our community thrive.

“Looking forward, the NEDC’s board remains focused on working with its sole shareholder, the City of Nanaimo, on a new partnering agreement to better align both organizations in terms of strategy and accountability while remaining an arm’s length body focused on the advancement and development of Nanaimo’s economy.”

Two issues remain: if economic development within the City and tourism are being seperated, where does that leave economic development and/or tourism development for the Electoral Areas - all of whom signed on to a 10-year agreement to fund the NEDC with the City of Nanaimo as a southern economic development service area.

Part of what made that deal possible was the then-Electoral Area Directors agreed to sign on to an Economic Development program if the City of Nanaimo and other municipalities signed on to fund the RDN’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program. So far, no statements have been made to say whether the City of Nanaimo or other municipalities would withdraw from funding the Water program if the southern Electoral Areas were to withdraw from the economic development funding.

The rest of the RDN, north of the City of Nanaimo, operates as the Northern Economic Development Program which, according to the RDN, is a grant funding program for projects that clearly demonstrate economic benefits to one or more of the communities benefitting in the program.