2015-16 Report on Plans and Priorities
Ministers' messages and section I

Minister's Message

In the aftermath of the last recession – the deepest global economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression – Canada retains its enviable economic standing while other countries continue to experience weak and uneven growth.

Our Government’s priorities of job creation and economic growth helped Canada to survive the global downturn and to emerge from it in a position of strength.

We remain committed to these priorities. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) continues to foster economic development in the region by delivering strategic support that addresses the specific issues facing small and medium-sized enterprises as well as urban and rural communities throughout the region.

Major opportunities lie ahead for Atlantic businesses and communities, including the advancement of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and the implementation of several new trade agreements, including the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement. Through ACOA, our Government will ensure that Atlantic Canada is prepared to maximize the benefits that will unfold from these historic initiatives.

I am pleased to present ACOA’s 2015-16 Report on Plans and Priorities, which details the Agency’s plans to support continued economic growth in Atlantic Canada.

original signed by

The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, PC, QC, MP
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Minister of State's Message

In 2015-16, ACOA will continue to follow through on our Government’s commitment to job creation and economic growth by focusing on key priorities designed to foster economic development in Atlantic Canada.

The Agency will continue to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in starting up, expanding and undertaking initiatives that will make them more innovative, productive and competitive in the global marketplace. This will be key to ensuring that they are well positioned to create and seize important opportunities, including those that will arise from new, unprecedented access to the European market through the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement.

Collaborating with other government departments, community-based groups, the private sector and academia to identify opportunities for economic growth and diversification in Atlantic communities, particularly those in rural areas, will remain a priority. The Agency will work with communities to help them find ways to offset demographic vulnerabilities and to develop their capacity to create jobs and economic stability. ACOA will also work with important sectors such as tourism and resource industries to develop innovative responses to challenges and to remove barriers to growth.

ACOA will continue to advocate for Atlantic Canada among partners, stakeholders and decision- makers, with special focus on the region’s strengths and opportunities. Under the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan, the Agency remains committed to helping SMEs promote their capacity, and it will engage stakeholders to maximize federal industrial benefit opportunities related to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and the Defence Procurement Strategy.

Internally, ACOA will continue to foster excellence in its operations to ensure that it keeps delivering quality results for Canadians in the coming fiscal year and beyond.

original signed by

The Honourable Rob Moore, PC, MP
Minister of State
(Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Section I: Organizational Expenditure Overview

Organizational Profile

Appropriate Minister: The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, PC, QC, MP

Minister of State: The Honourable Rob Moore, PC, MP

Institutional Head: Mr. Paul J. LeBlanc, President

Ministerial portfolio: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Enabling Instrument: Part I of the Government Organization Act, Atlantic Canada 1987, R.S.C, 1985, c. 41 (4th Supp.), also known as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act. See the Department of Justice Canada website for more information.

Year of Incorporation / Commencement: 1987

Other: Mr. Gerald Keddy is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue, the Minister of Agriculture and for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Information is available on the Agency’s website regarding the Repayable Contributions Portfolio of ACOA’s Business Development Program.

Organizational Context

Raison d’être

Established in 1987 (Part I of the Government Organization Act, Atlantic Canada 1987, R.S.C., 1985, c.41 (4th Supp.), also known as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act), the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is the federal department responsible for the Government of Canada’s economic development efforts in the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) is responsible for this organization.

ACOA works to create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive, by working with diverse communities to develop and diversify local economies, and by championing the strengths of Atlantic Canada. Together with Atlantic Canadians, ACOA is building a stronger economy.


ACOA plays an important role in developing and supporting policies and programs that strengthen the region’s economy. Its responsibilities are stated in the Agency’s legislation, which mandates the organization “to increase opportunity for economic development in Atlantic Canada and, more particularly, to enhance the growth of earned incomes and employment opportunities in that region.”[i] Although the Agency’s policies and program tools have evolved since its inception, the overall goal remains constant. ACOA is dedicated to helping the Atlantic region realize its full economic potential in terms of productivity, innovation, competitiveness and growth. This is achieved by addressing structural changes in the economy, helping communities and businesses to overcome challenges, and capitalizing on opportunities. ACOA is committed to helping the region build its capacity and make the transition to a stronger economy.

The Agency provides services through its head office in Moncton, N.B., and throughout the four Atlantic provinces, with a regional office located in each of the four provincial capitals and 22 local field offices. Through its Ottawa office, ACOA ensures that Atlantic Canada’s interests are reflected in the policies and programs developed by other departments and agencies of the federal government.

Strategic Outcome and Program Alignment Architecture

ACOA’s strategic outcome – a competitive Atlantic Canadian economy – and its program alignment architecture (PAA) can be found below. The PAA is based on the results of policy research and analysis, the periodic assessment of program relevance and performance, ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in the region, and the priorities and directions of the Government of Canada.

  1. Strategic Outcome: A competitive Atlantic Canadian economy

1.1 Program: Enterprise Development

1.1.1 Sub-Program: Innovation and Commercialization

1.1.2 Sub-Program: Productivity and Growth

1.1.3 Sub-Program: International Business Development

1.2 Program: Community Development

1.2.1 Sub-Program: Community Investment

1.2.2 Sub-Program: Community-based Business Development

1.3 Program: Policy, Advocacy and Coordination

1.3.1 Sub-Program: Policy

1.3.2 Sub-Program: Advocacy

1.3.3 Sub-Program: Coordination

Internal Services

Organizational Priorities

All organizational priorities support the Agency’s strategic outcome: a competitive Atlantic Canadian economy. This outcome reflects ACOA’s legislative purpose to enhance the growth of earned incomes and employment opportunities as well as the Agency’s role in advocating on behalf of Atlantic Canada, affecting national policy.

Priority 1
Focus ACOA’s programs and services on initiatives that encourage Atlantic Canadian businesses to become more innovative, productive and competitive in the global marketplace. Ongoing Enterprise Development,
with support from Community Development and Policy, Advocacy and Coordination
Why is this a priority?

Productivity drives competitiveness, economic growth and, ultimately, living standards. Atlantic Canada continues to be challenged in closing the productivity gap, in raising the level of business innovation, and in countering an aging population and a shortage of skilled workers. ACOA is working with businesses in Atlantic Canada to help them take advantage of the Canada-European Union (EU) Trade Agreement, other trade agreements, the Atlantic Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and the Agency’s new streamlined approach to innovation programming, aimed at better helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate, adapt and compete. Strategic investments in areas such as innovation, technology adoption, business and management skills, and the development of SMEs’ international business activities are essential to enhancing the competitiveness of the region’s SMEs and the continued vitality of the region’s communities.

What are the plans for meeting this priority?

  • Support SMEs, through the renewed Atlantic Innovation Fund and the strengthened Business Development Program, to improve business productivity and competitiveness by helping firms become investor ready and capitalize on opportunities related to major projects, and by promoting innovation and skills initiatives such as commercialization activities, the adoption and adaptation of technology, efficiency measures, the enhancement of business management skills and sector development activities.
  • Assist Atlantic businesses and industries to expand into the global marketplace by exploring opportunities for international business development, including global value chains, as outlined in Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan and by helping SMEs to capitalize on international trade agreements in 2015 and beyond.
  • Provide research, coordination and programming that enable engagement and collaboration with federal, provincial, private-sector and academic partners throughout Atlantic Canada to identify effective approaches to addressing productivity, competitiveness and skills challenges in the region in 2015 and beyond.


Priority 2
Develop and implement strategies in response to the distinct economic needs and opportunities of Atlantic Canadian communities, including a particular focus on rural business development. Ongoing Community Development, with support from Enterprise Development and Policy, Advocacy and Coordination
Why is this a priority?

The diverse culture, geography and economic conditions throughout the four Atlantic provinces necessitate customized responses to economic needs that balance the differences and synergies between rural and urban areas. Rural communities must address significant challenges facing the natural resource sector, which has traditionally driven the regional economy, and seize opportunities for diversification. This is especially important in Atlantic Canada – one of the most rural regions in Canada. Stakeholders must work together to ensure that strategies developed in response to specific needs are complementary and contribute to a stronger region.

What are the plans for meeting this priority?

  • Continue to work closely with partners in the private sector and academia, community-based groups and other government departments to address the needs of communities, especially in areas that are vulnerable to the out-migration of skilled workers and an aging population.
  • Maximize the use of ACOA’s resources, as well as those of partners such as the Community Business Development Corporations that assist rural SMEs, through the identification of strategic opportunities for economic growth, wealth creation and diversification in the region’s communities, research and analysis that will assess the specific needs of diverse areas, and advocacy for responses from key stakeholders that will generate economic benefit.
  • Assist in promoting industries such as tourism and help develop strategies to successfully grow these sectors.
  • Identify and facilitate the development of primary resource projects in rural communities, with a particular focus on innovation and on developing and commercializing new value- added products and services.
  • Strengthen investments in communities while ensuring continued alignment with federal priorities such as support for official language minority communities and Aboriginal economic development.


Priority 3
Provide leadership through coordination, engagement and advocacy with business, government and other stakeholders throughout the region and with key decision-makers in Ottawa so that Atlantic Canada is able to capitalize on emerging opportunities and address key challenges. Ongoing Policy, Advocacy and Coordination, with support from Community Development and Enterprise Development
Why is this a priority?

Atlantic Canadian businesses have significant opportunity related to growth in global markets, new technologies and major projects that are under way or on the horizon, including in areas such as defence and energy. There are also important opportunities for Atlantic Canadian SMEs in key sectors to capitalize on growth opportunities such as those emerging from the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. SMEs can also maximize their competitive advantages in the global economy under the Canada-EU Trade Agreement and other trade agreements. ACOA’s mandate requires the Agency to lead the coordination of support among stakeholders, including federal departments, to maximize the economic benefits relating to emerging opportunities and to address ongoing challenges that may occur within the region.

What are the plans for meeting this priority?

  • Analyze and develop strategies and engage stakeholders to capitalize on opportunities in areas that show strong potential for development, including major projects, the energy sector, the Atlantic Gateway and key growth sectors in Atlantic Canada.
  • Engage with business networks to develop policy research focused on SMEs in the region.
  • Inform key decision-makers and provide them with strategic advice based on rigorous analysis to ensure the Atlantic economy capitalizes on opportunities.
  • Engage stakeholders, SMEs and communities in accessing opportunities created through the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.
  • Ensure federal policies and programs in the primary resource sector take into consideration Atlantic Canadian competitiveness issues, including awareness of opportunities for regional value-added products in new and existing global markets.
  • Advocate on behalf of Atlantic Canadian SMEs to promote their capacity to take advantage of opportunities associated with upcoming major projects, including federal defence procurement.
  • Engage stakeholders through various strategies to maximize federal industrial benefit opportunities related to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and the Defence Procurement Strategy.
  • Lead the new Atlantic Federal Council in engaging senior federal officials on Atlantic priorities and in connecting with central agencies on issues of national importance.


Priority 4
Continually improve the internal management of the organization and maintain employee engagement to excel in serving Canadians. Ongoing Internal Services
Why is this a priority?

In a climate of fiscal restraint and organizational change, ACOA continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to delivering quality results for Canadians. To achieve its objectives, ACOA will have to foster continuous improvement while sustaining a diverse and skilled workforce, as inspired by Blueprint 2020. The Agency must maintain employee engagement at all levels to ensure efficient and effective decision making that reflects corporate and operational risks. In maintaining this engagement, it is also critical for employees to understand and identify with the Public Service of Canada’s values – Respect for Democracy, Respect for People, Integrity, Stewardship, and Excellence – as the basis for ethical behaviour and as a means of underscoring the importance and the impact of ACOA’s work.

What are the plans for meeting this priority?

  • Implement transformational and organizational initiatives that will strengthen and improve the Agency’s capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver excellent programs and services, and continue to seek feedback and foster employee engagement through various initiatives (e.g. kaizen events, 2014 Public Service Employee Survey Action Plan, employee engagement committees) in support of the Blueprint 2020 vision.
  • Continue to seek opportunities for increased collaboration both within the Agency as well as within the broader government context.
  • Continue to implement the new Directive on Performance Management, which promotes a fair, equitable and consistent approach to people management, supports employees and their development, and enhances productivity to ensure the provision of high-quality service to Canadians.
  • Manage the implementation of mitigating measures for the Agency’s key risks and ensure the integration of risk management into the Agency’s planning and decision- making processes.
  • Implement the first year of the 2015-2018 ACOA Values and Ethics Strategy to ensure that values remain embedded in the Agency’s culture.
  • Reinforce ACOA’s commitment to maintaining strong human resource practices, in keeping with public-service values and in meeting its human resource needs and the demands of its change management agenda.
  • Support key elements of Shared Services Canada’s information technology (IT) transformation agenda to improve security and realize cost savings in the delivery of IT services within the public service.

Risk Analysis

Risk Response Strategy
Link to Program Alignment Architecture
Economic Context

There is a risk that the achievement of results expected from the Agency’s economic development programming may be affected by external factors that contribute to uncertainties for economic growth in Atlantic Canada.

Management will mitigate this risk through ongoing research and analysis of the factors affecting economic growth in Atlantic Canada, and through ongoing intelligence gathering facilitated by the Agency’s networks and regional presence.

Management will capitalize on the flexibility of the Agency’s programming, on its advocacy role and on its integrated planning process in order to proactively address the risks and opportunities presented by these uncertainties.

Enterprise Development

Community Development

Policy, Advocacy and Coordination

External Capacity

There is a risk that partner, community and client capacity for the identification, development and successful implementation of strategic projects may not be sufficient to support the optimal achievement of ACOA’s program objectives.

Management will mitigate this risk through ongoing research, analysis, intelligence gathering and information sharing. Management will also work closely with its partners and stakeholders to foster client and community capacity and to increase private-sector capital investment in the region.

Management will capitalize on the Agency’s integrated planning process in order to understand and strategically address differences in how this risk expresses itself across ACOA regions.

Community Development

Enterprise Development

Policy, Advocacy and Coordination

ACOA’s work is driven by client requirements, strategic priorities and ever changing local and regional economic landscapes. These drivers give rise to uncertainties that can affect the Agency’s ability to achieve expected results.

Over the next few years, economic growth in Atlantic Canada will be influenced by investments in the mining and energy sectors, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and global economic developments.

Atlantic Canada’s economy continues to face several risks. While economic conditions are improving in the United States, slower-than-anticipated growth in emerging economies could create additional challenges for exporters. International competition from low-cost producers and access to markets will continue to challenge Atlantic Canada’s industries. An aging population and out- migration could also place pressure on skills and labour force availability.

The above factors require businesses and communities in Atlantic Canada to become more competitive. The development and commercialization of innovative products and services, a continued focus on business skills development and increased market diversification could help improve the region’s productivity and competitiveness.

ACOA’s organizational priorities reflect the above factors and the need for sound fiscal management and continuous improvement. ACOA’s key risks and response strategies support the Agency in its plan to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities in a manner that is integrated, strategic and responsive to the circumstances affecting each Atlantic province.

In addition to its department-specific risks, ACOA monitors relevant Government of Canada risks and ensures that the Agency’s response is aligned with whole-of-government strategies. Information Management and Information Technology security represents an area of uncertainty given the frequency, complexity and severity of cyber-attacks. ACOA will mitigate this risk through information stewardship, implementation of Government of Canada policies and procedures, including the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Directive on Recordkeeping and related training, and implementation of ACOA’s Departmental Security Plan.

Planned Expenditures

Budgetary Financial Resources: (dollars)

Main Estimates
Planned Spending
Planned Spending
Planned Spending

Human Resources: (Full-Time Equivalents [FTEs])


Budgetary Planning Summary for Strategic Outcome and Programs: (dollars)

Strategic Outcome, Programs and Internal Services
2015-16 Planned
2017-18 Planned
Strategic Outcome 1: A competitive Atlantic Canadian economy
1.1 Enterprise Development 179,856,451 180,674,018 176,912,731 171,221,612 171,221,612 169,937,144 172,757,770
1.2 Community Development 88,520,093 94,103,326 90,907,790 89,727,582 89,727,582 89,368,367 88,353,094
1.3 Policy, Advocacy and Coordination 12,403,955 10,634,165 13,521,959 11,774,749 11,774,749 11,715,659 11,764,659
Subtotal 280,780,499 285,411,509 281,342,480 272,723,943 272,723,943 271,021,170 272,875,523
Internal Services Subtotal 34,881,448 28,746,598 29,609,957 25,861,046 25,861,046 25,837,379 25,837,199
Total 315,661,947 314,158,107 310,952,437 298,584,989 298,584,989 296,858,549 298,712,722

The decrease in planned spending is primarily evident between 2014-15 and 2015-16. Details of all variances are fully explained in the section Departmental Spending Trend.

Alignment of Spending with the Whole-of-Government Framework

Alignment of 2015-16 Planned Spending, with the Whole-of-Government Framework: (dollars)

Strategic Outcome Program Spending Area Government
of Canada Outcome
2015-16 Planned
A competitive Atlantic Canadian economy 1.1 Enterprise Development Economic Affairs Strong Economic Growth 171,221,612
1.2 Community Development Economic Affairs Strong Economic Growth 89,727,582
1.3 Policy, Advocacy and Coordination Economic Affairs Strong Economic Growth 11,774,749

Total Planned Spending, by Spending Area: (dollars)

Spending Area Total Planned Spending
Economic Affairs 272,723,943
Social Affairs 0
International Affairs 0
Government Affairs 0

Departmental Spending Trend

In the 2015-16 Main Estimates, the Agency’s available funding is $298.6 million. This represents a $12.3 million reduction from 2014‑15 forecast spending of $310.9 million. The variance is explained by:

In 2016-17, planned spending is $296.9 million, a $1.7 million decrease from $298.6 million in 2015-16, due to:

In 2017-18, planned spending increases to $298.7 million, a $1.8 million increase from the $296.9 million in planned spending for 2016-17. This is due to:

The figure below illustrates the Agency’s actual spending for 2012-13 and 2013-14, the forecast spending for 2014-15 and the planned spending from 2015-16 to 2017-18.


Excluding sunset programs, the Agency’s spending levels from 2012‑13 to 2013-14 declined mainly as a result of Budget 2011 and Budget 2012 initiatives. All other variances have been explained above.

Estimates by Vote

For information on ACOA’s organizational appropriations, consult the 2015-16 Main Estimates on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat website.

[i] Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 41, 4th Supp.

[ii] “Type” definitions:

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