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Investing in Our Heritage

Mr. Speaker, last year our government acknowledged the tremendous role our cultural industries play in promoting pride in who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and in generating tremendous economic activity through their ingenuity and innovation. This year, we are building on the advances we made last year through further strong investments in our cultural sector. The centrepiece of our efforts this year is the development of Newfoundland and Labrador�s first-ever Strategic Cultural Plan, a medley of measures designed to strengthen this sector. This Budget commits an investment of $17.6 million over the next three years to implement this Plan.

With culture as our focus, we will pursue a range of measures to further strengthen our cultural industries. This will include $200,000 in core funding for arts organizations and $300,000 for heritage sites and community museums. We will establish a Cultural Tourism Working Group to assess and identify ways to better harness our cultural tourism product. We will also invest in Music Newfoundland and Labrador, a Publishers Assistance Program and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council is proudly celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We are increasing our allocation to the Council by $300,000 this year, bringing its funding to $1.15 million so it can better support the arts community. Our cumulative new investment in the Arts Council over the next three years will be $1.8 million, which will double the Council�s existing budget. We will also move ahead to enable the development of a long-awaited Artist�s Code.

We will increase funding for the Art Procurement Program under the auspices of the Provincial Art Gallery at The Rooms, enhance the provincial Arts and Letters Program, research investment and endowment models that help to support the arts and culture sector, and develop a strategy to safeguard and promote the province�s intangible heritage. We will invest in capital works and technical upgrades at the Arts and Culture Centres and the renovation of the LSPU Hall.

We will begin to develop interpretation and revitalization plans for the historic Colonial Building and allocate funds to enhance the Corner Brook Museum, the Loggers� Life and Mary March museums in Grand Falls-Windsor, the Seamen�s Museum in Grand Bank, the Mockbeggar Plantation and the Bonavista Lighthouse, Commissariat House, Quidi Vidi Battery, the Ryan Shop in Trinity, the Cable Station in Heart�s Content and the Point Amour Lighthouse.

In addition to this, we will invest in community events throughout the province. Through our Recreation Division, we will provide $200,000 to fund the 2006 world triathlon and duathlon world championships in Corner Brook. And we are investing now to prepare for the 100th anniversary, in 2009, of Captain Bob Bartlett�s trip to the North Pole and moving ahead to plan the 2010 celebration of the 400th anniversary of John Guy�s Colony at Cupids.

These cultural initiatives will complement the additional resources we are investing in tourism development to foster growth in an industry that can mean magnificent opportunities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, irrespective of location. We will invest $100,000 this year to achieve goals laid out in our Tourism Product Development Strategy. We have committed another $2 million beyond what was announced in last year�s Budget in order to bring our total tourism marketing budget up to $10 million. And we will upgrade and extend the operating time of our province�s Visitor Information Centres and establish a new provincial centre at the St. John�s International Airport.

Protecting our heritage also means protecting our natural environment. We are increasing funding from $300,000 to $500,000 for the continued implementation of the province�s Climate Change Action Plan and providing $1 million this year for the continued clean-up of selected contaminated sites.

To ensure the health of our wildlife populations, we are providing funding of about $3 million over two years to assess the status of ten of the province�s major caribou populations, and will also establish a multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee to help guide the development of a caribou strategy.

We are also moving ahead with a long-term reinvestment strategy for our Provincial Parks System by providing $1 million this year to add additional campsites and construct another comfort station at Butter Pot Provincial Park, construct a comfort station at Squires Memorial Provincial Park, construct a comfort station and dumping station at Pinware River Provincial Park, and build dumping stations at Frenchman�s Cove Provincial Park and J. T. Cheeseman Provincial Park. These additions will make our parks more attractive destinations and allow us to meet the broader range of services and amenities demanded by the modern consumer.

We are investing additional funds to help preserve and promote our remarkable natural areas. This year, we will focus on supporting the new interpretation centre for the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve and another for the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve. We are also providing $259,000 to advance the Natural Areas System Plan, which is focused on protecting and promoting these areas for their esthetic and economic value.

Together, this broad range of initiatives will strengthen our province and provide the foundation for diversified economic development in regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

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