SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – Wharves in Shelburne and Yarmouth counties were on the list to visit when the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was in the area on June 15 as part of their study to assess the current state of small craft harbours in the country, and to examine emerging and recurring challenges faced by small craft harbours and the coastal communities that rely on them.
The committee study was put forth by South Shore-MP Bernadette Jordan. “I’m the one who put this forward because I know this is something very important in the area,” said Jordan in an interview on the Falls Point wharf in Woods Harbour. “In southwestern Nova Scotia as we all know, our economic driver is the fishery so knowing the wharves and infrastructure has not been maintained as it should be, knowing we are at capacity in a lot of them because of the size of the boats, we just want to know the best way forward, how can we make sure we can sustain these structures?”
The Bear Point wharf and the Dennis Point wharf were also visited by the Committee, after meeting with local harbour authority managers. During the week the Committee also visited small craft harbour communities across the Atlantic provinces and Quebec. In the fall, the Committee will go to the west coast and central Canada, hold meetings in Ottawa where people cam come and present and then have officials in from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans “to ask them questions from what we’ve heard,” said Jordan, who chairs the Committee. Jordan said they are hoping to wrap things up by October.
Jordan said there is “no question” that small craft harbours are important business hubs in coastal communities. “I look at every boat as a private business,” she said. “Each boat is five jobs in our community. Its like this is our oil patch, this is our auto industry, this is our whatever. This is what we need to sustain our rural communities and we got to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to keep them sustainable.”
The federal government has budgeted $250 million for small craft harbours this year, to be spent over two years. “We haven’t seen where its going yet, but I’ve have had lots of discussions with the Minister’s Office about making sure we get a good chunk of that because it’s something I’ve been fighting for, for three years; more money for small craft harbours,” said Jordan.
In 2016, the federal government announced $289 million to improve small craft harbours including $49 million for 61 small craft harbour projects in Nova Scotia over two years. Of that, $6.9 million went to six projects in West Nova, including wharf and harbour improvements and breakwater construction in Lower Argyle, Cape St. Mary’s, Parker’s Cove, Pinkney’s Point, Wedgeport and Yarmouth Bar. In the South Shore St. Margaret’s riding, a total of $15.2 million was spent on 15 Small Craft Harbour over the same two-year period, and included projects in Upper Port La Tour, Stoney Island, Bear Point, Blandford (Shoal Cove), Clark’s Harbour, Cripple Creek, Dublin Shore, East Port L’Hebert, Gunning Cove, Ingomar (Black Point), Lower Sandy Point, Newellton, South Side, Vogler’s Cove, and West Head.