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Bachand attacks Feds over funding cut

 

Don Macdonald, The Gazette

Published: Wednesday, June 04

 

Quebec's economic development minister is on the warpath over federal funding cuts to about 60 non-profit organizations involved in economic development across the province.

 

Raymond Bachand said he's been unable to persuade federal minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to reconsider the cuts so now he's taking the battle public.

 

Bachand said the policy will damage the province's economy and called for the intervention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

 

"This is going to be a political fight," he said in an interview. "It's a bad policy of that minister. And, at the end of the day, it's a bad policy of the government if the prime minister does not intervene to change that policy, or change the minister."

 

The federal agency is eliminating operating grants over three years to non-profit organizations across a wide swath of sectors including such groups as Montréal International, the Quebec Film and Television Council, Aéro Montreal, Institut National d'Optique and Fur Council of Canada, according to a list provided by Bachand's office.

 

Bachand said the organizations play an important role in developing the economy. They bring companies, government and research centres around the same table and work together on common initiatives such as marketing campaigns and making international contacts, he said. The mininster calculated the cuts will total between $20 million and $30 million by the third year.

 

"It doesn't make sense," Bachand said. "You need people do that job. It's part of the infrastructure...How do you make progress without having the specific players of an industry around the table and developing business plans?"

 

A Blackburn aide said the economic development agency is eliminating its funding for operating budgets to redirect the money to assisting small and medium-sized businesses "that are in a position to actually create jobs."

 

Pierre Miquelon, a senior adviser to Blackburn, said about 70 per cent of the agency's budget has been going to the non-profits and it's time for the companies in the different sectors to pony up more money to support the groups if they believe it's deserved.

 

"Maybe it's time that the community pays for the operations of the non-profit in question," Miquelon said. "If the community will not provide the cash for operating costs why should the Canadian taxpayer do so?"

 

He added the agency will continue to subsidize organizations for individual projects with "a beginning, a middle and an end."

 

But Bachand suggested there's a political motive behind the cuts.

 

"Politicians like to give money and have their picture in newspapers," he said. "And if you give money to Montréal International and these groups...you don't get your photo in the newspaper."

 

Hans Fraiken, head of the Quebec Film and Television Council, said his organization, which promotes Quebec as a shooting location, has lost $400,000 in federal funding plus another $200,000 in municipal money that was contingent on it. Those cuts, on a $1.5 million budget, may force the closure of the two-year-old organization that Fraiken said brought $260 million in foreign capital to the province last year and generated $12 million to $14 million in federal revenue.

 

Alan Herscovici, executive vice president of the Fur Council of Canada, said Blackburn's agency cut $50,000 in funding to promote the annual North American Fur and Fashion Exposition in Montreal to foreign buyers.

 

Bachand's department ended up replacing the federal funding but Herscovici questioned the wisdom of the cuts for what is the largest fashion trade show in Canada.

 

"We know that manufacturers are under siege with the rise of the Canadian dollar and the weakening U.S. economy," said Hersovici, who noted the Fur Council receives federal funding for other initiatives. "In supporting the show they support all the manufacturers. They don't have to pick winners and losers."

 

"It's a small investment to help a lot of people."

 

[email protected]

 

http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=473e52e9-b789-4f48-9cee-b296c5b86cfe

 

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