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Budget 2006 - The Right Choices : Momentum for Growth and Prosperity

March 30, 2006
(Innovation, Trade and Rural Development)
(Fisheries and Aquaculture)
(Natural Resources)

The Right Choices: Building Rural Regions
Budget 2006 Demonstrates Potential for Growth for Rural Regions

The Williams government is acting on its commitment to strengthen and diversify rural Newfoundland and Labrador, supporting new infrastructure and programs intended to attract investment and keep jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and Minister responsible for the Rural Secretariat announced today.

Budget 2006 investments advance the development of new opportunities and build on statements made in the Throne Speech on government�s intent to promote sustainable growth in rural regions.

"This government is taking the necessary steps to provide infrastructure and supports to rural areas, and is collaborating closely with each region to diversify its economic base," said Minister Dunderdale. "We must find tangible ways to diversify regional economies. We need to concentrate on building on our strengths as we work to identify economic development opportunities. Budget 2006 recognizes and reflects this priority and allocates funding to help Newfoundland and Labrador�s economy move forward."

Investing in Fisheries and Aquaculture
Creating new employment opportunities in rural regions of the province is the focus of government�s new funding to strengthen and diversify the fishing and aquaculture industries. Budget 2006 invests an additional $4.2 million in aquaculture, more than doubling last year�s expenditures which will greatly assist the aquaculture sector expand at a quicker pace.

Government will invest $3.5 million this year to create a new three-year $10 million Aquaculture Capital Investment Program to grow the aquaculture sector through the attraction of new private sector investment and expansion of existing aquaculture operations. The program is designed to boost industry production and create new employment opportunities, and will add approximately 150 full-time equivalent jobs to the industry within the next two years.

"The aquaculture sector offers a tremendous economic development opportunity for our rural regions. This province has a ready workforce, clean environment and space to grow � there�s no other location in a similar position on the eastern side of North America," said Tom Rideout, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. "Our government is seizing the momentum to create growth and a brighter future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador."

Budget 2006 also allocates $360,000 for aquaculture industry support, doubling the investment in the program this year. The funding will be targeted toward new technology, innovation and marketing to assist with the industry�s efficiency and profitability.

An additional $500,000 is earmarked in Budget 2006 to take the next step to commercialize cod aquacultures through the creation of a commercial-scale cod demonstration farm. Government will seek the participation of industry and additional financial support from the federal government for this development.

Government will also direct an additional $1.25 million to further strengthen the fishing industry, with a focus on the following areas:

  • $300,000 to begin implementation of the Strategy for the Recovery and Management of Cod Stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador, announced in 2005 in partnership with the Government of Canada;
  • $265,000 to support new initiatives designed to address seafood trade and market barriers;
  • $135,000 this year to increase the province�s capacity for coastal and oceans management, and to prepare an oceans strategy and policy framework. It will also enable the province to work with the Government of Canada to implement Canada�s Oceans Action Plan;
  • An additional $250,000 for fisheries development initiatives. These funds will be used to undertake exploratory resource surveys, examine and introduce new fishing and processing technologies, and undertake product development activities aimed at diversifying and strengthening our fishing industry;
  • $100,000 this year to enhance the promotion of the province�s seafood products and develop a broader range of international market opportunities, through increased participation in international trade exhibitions;
  • $100,000 increase in funding for the Strategic Infrastructure Program bringing the total value of the program to $300,000. This will assist industry in upgrading fisheries infrastructure to improve efficiency, product quality, and safety in the landing and handling of fish; and,
  • $100,000 towards a sealing industry campaign to counteract the misinformation presented about this $40 million-a-year industry which provides work for approximately 4,000 residents of coastal and rural areas of the province.
  • Developing our Agriculture and Agrifoods Industries
    In 2005, our agriculture and agrifoods sector experienced the strongest growth of any province in the country. Building on its recent success, government will invest over $6 million in Budget 2006 for financial assistance to help bring the agriculture and agrifoods industry to the next level of commercial development.

    "Agrifoods is a significant contributor to economic development and employment growth in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It generates approximately $500 million annually to our economy and employs 6,200 people," said Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources. "Building rural regions of our province through strategic investments in the agriculture and agrifoods industry will help bring new business and job opportunities into these areas."

    Government will create a new $4 million Agriculture and Agrifoods Development Fund (AADF) to support large-scale agriculture and agrifoods projects throughout our province. The AADF will target major agriculture and agrifoods companies with a demonstrated track record in business and the capacity to raise private investment. The AADF will be used to leverage partnerships for major expansion projects or help establish new lines of business.

    To further develop small to medium-scale agricultural opportunities, $500,000 in new funding is committed this year for the Provincial Agrifoods Assistance Program (PAAP), bringing government�s total investment this year to $2 million. The industry program is applicant-driven and helps support individual farmers, processors and agricultural associations. Projects eligible under PAAP include new agricultural land development, enhancement of commercialization and secondary processing opportunities and technology transfer to the farm.

    Government has a critical role to play in agriculture infrastructure development. To that end, funding for the construction of agricultural access roads will increase by $255,000 to complement rural land expansion plans throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The maintenance and construction of agriculture access roads enables farmers to take better advantage of new land developments. In addition, $342,300 will be earmarked for the provincial limestone program to assist farmers to prepare and enrich the soil. This represents the highest amount of funding in recent history.

    As recently announced, government is investing $1.3 million in Budget 2006 to ensure appropriate levels of staff and infrastructure are in place to provide enhanced services to our livestock industry and manage the risk posed by emerging diseases in the area of animal and human health interaction. This initiative includes animal surveillance and testing for the presence of avian influenza, Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

    Supporting Regional Solutions
    Government is continuing its annual allocation of $1.2 million to regional economic development boards to carry out their economic development mandate. These boards provide an important service to the regions of this province, and government will continue to work closely with the boards as they seek opportunities and guide economic development in each region.

    The Rural Secretariat is working with government departments, its nine regional councils and provincial council to promote informed discussions and community involvement in the identification of long term sustainable development plans for the various regions of the province. Working together, government and communities will develop realistic, sustainable, achievable and affordable 15-year visions. To support and promote their work, government is allocating an additional $150,000 to the Rural Secretariat for a total budget of $1.85 million. The additional funding will support the ongoing work of the regional councils, allow for additional public discussions, and enhance the ability of Rural Secretariat to undertake needed research on issues of importance to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Building Communities
    Government will invest $4.25 million in the Community Enhancement Program (CEP) to support the immediate need for short-term employment of many residents of rural communities. The CEP combines the need for short-term employment with long-term economic development initiatives, and provides substantial benefits with improved infrastructure necessary to sustain and enhance rural communities.

    Minister Dunderdale said these investments complement the province�s Comprehensive Regional Diversification Strategy, and are in addition to the tens of millions of dollars invested in regions and businesses throughout the province through the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Fund, the Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund and in building and improving physical and economic infrastructure throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Media contact:
    Lynn Evans, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, Rural Secretariat, (709) 729-4570, 690-6290
    Lori Lee Oates, Fisheries and Aquaculture, (709) 729-3733, 690-8403
    Tracy Barron, Natural Resources, (709) 729-5282, 690-1703
    John Tompkins, Municipal Affairs, (709) 729-1983, 690-2498

    2006 03 30                                              2:25 p.m.

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