Provincial officials say the new BioCommons Research Park, which is described as the Slemon Park of the bioscience sector, will more than make up for the capital city’s loss of over 150 jobs through the relocation of the Department of Education to Summerside and the Department of Fisheries to Montague.
About $10 million will be spent on site services and a further $20 million would be invested in a facility to act as an anchor for the research and business hub. Part of the facility would provide turnkey incubation facilities for private sector firms wanting to commercialize their ideas. Premier Robert Ghiz said this new plan will create up to 2,600 new, high-paying jobs for Canada’s smallest province. “Our goals in aerospace, we hope to see over 1,200 people working in the aerospace industry,’’ said Ghiz, adding there are currently about 850 working in that sector.
“We hope to grow our bioscience industry from 850 people up to 2,000, we hope to grow our IT sector by 500-1,000 people so we are going to see a lot more well-trained, higher-paid jobs in the province."
Summerside also plays a pivotal role in the province’s economic development plan. The Prince County capital will be home to the Summerside E-Health Centre of Excellence. About $7 million will be invested to create a centre to test and demonstrate health-care IT products. The province hopes to build on success stories already based in Summerside, including Carestream Health, formerly Kodak, which is in downtown Summerside. More than 60 people work for the firm developing radiology software. Opposition Development critic Mike Currie said the new plan ignores the pillars of P.E.I.’s economy — agriculture, fisheries and tourism. He said he was disappointed the plan “abandons" those sectors.
“The only one that I see who has a job from this so far is Dr. Michael Mayne,’’ he said. Mayne, who is the deputy minister of bioscience and economic innovation, said advances in bioscience will directly benefit the primary sector.
“They are not being left behind," he said.
The provincial government released the plan in front of a packed audience at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Those in attendance included academic leaders, business owners and political leaders from the municipal, provincial and federal levels. For rural P.E.I., the plan calls for access to high-speed Internet at the same rates as charged in urban areas. It also wants to expand the amount of wind energy produced from the current 100 MW to 500 MW. That is expected to cost as much as $1 billion, most of which will come from the private sector. The province also wants to modernize all high school science laboratories. That is expected to cost $5 million.
Innovation Minister Richard Brown said a key feature of the strategy is accountability. The province plans to create an independent Value for Money Office that will monitor the program, progress will be measured through management accountability framework and the plan will be widely communicated with Islanders.
“Given the level of investment, it’s very important that government make sure that Islanders know how their resources are being invested,’’ he said.
The province is vague on where it plans to get the money to carry out its plan. The documents say it will redeploy funding in existing programs, like Business Development Inc., and identify funding in existing programs like the Labour Market Development Agreement. But provincial officials are also hoping to convince the federal government to come onside, and help fund the program, but they say the plan will go ahead with or without Ottawa’s help. Ghiz described it as exciting times for Prince Edward Island.
“This is a very ambitious plan but one with a very disciplined course of action."