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Building Rural Regions

Mr. Speaker, measures such as these, coupled with our other investments in education and the Innovation Strategy, will do a great deal to promote diversification and growth in our rural communities. Many industries offer tremendous promise in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

None are more exciting than aquaculture. In order to spur private investment in aquaculture, we will make significant public investments in the industry over the next five years. Our aquaculture growth strategy includes a new, three-year, $10 million Aquaculture Capital Investment Program, with a commitment of $3.5 million in 2006-07; and also the establishment of a cod aquaculture demonstration farm and an enhanced aquaculture industry support initiative. We intend to become a leader in this growth industry.

Innovation also offers promise in the fish processing and marketing industry, particularly as we invest in diversification and maximize every opportunity. We will increase our budget for the Seafood Development and Diversification Program by $250,000 a year for the next five years and invest in seafood market development, an international seafood trade development initiative, and strategic infrastructure to improve the efficiency, product quality and safety of our fish landing and handling activities.

We are also looking to the future of our fisheries. We will invest $350,000 over two years to increase the province�s capacity for coastal and oceans management and to prepare an oceans strategy and policy framework. We will also invest $100,000 for a sealing industry communications strategy to counter the fiction and fabrication with facts, and $300,000 a year over five years to implement the cod recovery strategy in partnership with the Government of Canada.

To bolster our fish processing sector and help protect jobs in a time of resource decline, strong international competition and a high dollar, we will reduce the financial burden on the industry by reducing processing licence fees. Effective immediately, we will eliminate fee increases planned for 2006-07 and 2007-08 and also the planned species surcharge increases planned for 2006-07.

Agriculture is another sector that holds tremendous promise in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We are providing $4 million this year to establish an Agrifoods Development Fund that will support large-scale, strategic and targeted investments in agriculture and agrifoods projects by companies with proven track records that are prepared to make investments of their own. We are providing $2 million to the Provincial Agrifoods Assistance Program, which promotes and supports primary production and secondary processing in the sector. We will invest $2.3 million, primarily for the acquisition of farmland and for the construction of agricultural roads, particularly to support expansion in the dairy sector, and invest in agricultural limestone to support expansion in the dairy and sod sectors. We are also providing $1.3 million based on a review of the Animal Health Division to address growing concerns in the area of animal and human health interaction and to support front-line veterinary services and laboratory testing for our growing farming industry.

Yet another industry that continues to be very important in many rural areas throughout our province is forestry. To ensure a healthy wood supply, we are providing $800,000 in new funding to conduct a forest inventory, a $1 million increase in each of the next three years for silviculture initiatives to replenish our resources, and a $1 million increase in forest insect control and fire suppression funding.

Our mining industry also offers tremendous promise in rural regions. To boost these opportunities, we are investing $2.5 million in the Mineral Incentive Program, an increase of $900,000, in order to promote mineral prospecting and exploration activity in the province. These direct investments enable junior mining companies and prospectors to leverage significant additional private-sector investment and provide a solid foundation for new business and employment opportunities for our people. We are also committing an additional $500,000 to conduct even more regional geological work in order to provide timely geoscience information that accelerates mineral exploration activity.

Our offshore oil and gas industry continues to offer tremendous promise for larger centres but also for rural regions of the province. Petro-Canada�s decision this year to build the Additional Living Quarters Module for the Terra Nova FPSO at the Bull Arm site is a testament to the site�s value and the need to maintain the site in a state of readiness for future work. We will provide $1.1 million this year to the Bull Arm Site Corporation both to manage the site and to help us attract even more offshore fabrication and construction work to our province.

In order to preserve and protect the resources that our industries, communities and future generations will need for years to come, we will continue to promote conservation and sustainable development initiatives. We will continue to fund the Inland Fisheries Enforcement Program and move ahead to draft a Sustainable Development Act.

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