Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Minister’s Message

 Photograph: Minister Ashfield – 600 dpi.jpg
Canada’s economy remains the most stable among developed countries, in spite of the continued fragility of global economic conditions.

Our Government understands that the key to maintaining and strengthening our country’s economic performance lies in the competitiveness of our businesses and industry. We are committed to creating the conditions that will spur job creation and economic growth by helping to foster innovation and commercialization, supporting entrepreneurs in improving their business skills and productivity, and helping them engage in, and expand on, trade activities in existing and emerging markets.

In Atlantic Canada, major projects in shipbuilding and clean and renewable energy will produce historic opportunities for job creation and economic growth throughout the region. Through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), our Government will continue its work to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) throughout Atlantic Canada are prepared to capture these and other business opportunities.

ACOA will continue to explore opportunities for international trade by assisting Atlantic Canadian SMEs to enter the global marketplace. The Agency will also continue to play an important role in advancing the Atlantic Gateway through further development of the region’s transportation infrastructure, and through international marketing initiatives that promote this region as the gateway to North America and as a business partner of choice to countries around the world.

It gives me great pleasure to present ACOA’s 2013-14 Report on Plans and Priorities, which explains in detail the Agency’s priorities for continued economic growth in Atlantic Canada in the year ahead.


original signed by


The Honourable Keith Ashfield, PC, MP
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and
Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Minister’s Message

Photograph: Minister Shea – 300 dpi.jpg
Through its strong commitment to ACOA, our Government is following through on its priorities of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity in Atlantic Canada.

In the coming year, ACOA will continue to deliver on our Government’s economic mandate by helping Atlantic Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve their productivity, sharpen their competitive edge, enhance their business skills, adopt new technologies, and undertake or expand initiatives related to innovation, commercialization and lean manufacturing. ACOA will coordinate the policies and programs of the Government of Canada in relation to opportunities for economic development in Atlantic Canada.

The Agency will work closely with public- and private-sector partners to assist SMEs in both rural and urban areas to seize opportunities for growth and diversification, while also working on initiatives that will support the growth, development and long-term sustainability of the region’s resource sectors and of the communities that rely on them.

ACOA will continue to help SMEs identify and maximize business opportunities, including those that will flow from major projects being developed in Atlantic Canada, such as the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador. Additionally, the Agency will continue to organize activities under the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan to ensure that rural and urban SMEs throughout the region are prepared to compete for the range of opportunities that will result from the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

Over the next year and beyond, ACOA will continue to support Atlantic SMEs and communities in maximizing opportunities for job creation and economic growth by providing relevant, proven programs and services that are aligned with our Government’s priorities and that deliver real results for the people of this region.


original signed by


The Honourable Gail Shea, PC, MP
Minister of National Revenue and
Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Section I: Organizational Overview

Raison d’être

Established in 1987 (Part I of the Government Organization Act, Atlantic Canada 1987, R.S., c G-5-7, 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.

ACOA works to create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become more competitive, innovative and productive, by working with communities to develop and diversify local economies, and by championing the region’s strengths in partnership with Atlantic Canadians.


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.”[1] 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, competitiveness and growth. This is achieved by addressing structural changes in the economy, helping communities and businesses to overcome challenges, and finding new opportunities for growth. ACOA is committed to helping the region make the transition to a more innovative, productive and competitive economy.

The Agency provides services via 31 local field offices throughout the four provinces, along with regional offices located in all four provincial capitals and ACOA’s head office in Moncton, N.B. 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

The diagram below illustrates ACOA’s strategic outcome – a competitive Atlantic Canadian economy – and its Program Alignment Architecture (PAA). 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. ACOA’s PAA for 2013-14 comprises four programs and 13 sub-programs.

Diagram: ACOA’s strategic outcome and PAA

Organizational Priorities

All organizational priorities support the Agency’s strategic outcome: a competitive Atlantic Canadian economy. This outcome reflects the Agency’s legislative purpose to enhance the growth of earned incomes and employment opportunities in Atlantic Canada.

Priority 1 Type[2] Program
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
Community Development
Why this is a priority
  • Productivity drives economic growth and ultimately living standards. The global economic crisis has added to an already-challenging situation in Atlantic Canada in terms of closing the productivity gap, and the region is facing significant risk from an aging population and a shortage of skilled workers. Strategic investments in areas such as innovation, business and management skills, and 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.

Plans for meeting the priority

  • Support businesses and industry sectors to build their productivity and competitiveness through such initiatives as innovation and commercialization activities, the adoption of technology, lean manufacturing initiatives, and the acquisition of business and management skills.
  • Assist regional business and industry to expand into the global marketplace by exploring opportunities for international trade.
  • Advance the Atlantic Gateway initiative through further development of transportation infrastructure, international marketing and promotion and the advocacy of transportation policy and regulatory issues.
  • Provide effective research, coordination and policy that support engagement and collaboration with provincial, private sector and academic partners throughout Atlantic Canada to identify an effective approach to addressing productivity, competitiveness and the skills challenges in the region.
  • Engage industry and other stakeholders to maximize federal industrial regional benefit opportunities, with a particular focus on the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan, to capitalize and prepare for opportunities related to the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.


Priority 2 Type Program
Develop strategies, policies and programs that recognize the distinct economic development needs and opportunities of Atlantic Canadian communities, with a particular focus on rural businesses and communities. Ongoing Community Development
Enterprise Development
Why this is a priority
  • The diverse culture, geography and economic conditions existing throughout the four Atlantic provinces necessitate customized responses to economic needs, especially in regard to the significant differences between rural and urban areas. In addition to benefits through improved productivity and competitiveness, rural communities must address significant challenges facing the natural resource sector, which has traditionally driven the regional economy, and investigate opportunities for diversification. This is especially important in Atlantic Canada, where more than 40% of the population is located in rural communities, making it 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.

Plans for meeting the priority

  • Work closely with public- and private-sector partners to assist SMEs in both rural and urban areas.
  • Continue to work closely with provincial partners to address the needs of rural areas that are especially vulnerable to outmigration of skilled workers and an aging population.
  • Maximize the use of ACOA resources as well as those of its partners, including CBDCs, to assist rural small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in identifying strategic opportunities for economic growth and diversification.
  • Assist in addressing the challenges faced by various resource sectors that have been shaken by recent economic events and fluctuations in the global market and provide help in preparing strategies to successfully grow those sectors in order to ensure that communities benefit from resource development.
  • Undertake an examination of ACOA’s programming tools, ensuring their responsiveness to the unique needs of rural businesses that are heavily dependent on natural resources.
  • Invest in community infrastructure that will facilitate economic development efforts throughout Atlantic Canada and assist in the delivery of a new long-term infrastructure plan.
  • Support federal priorities by aligning activities with national frameworks such as aboriginal economic development and implement federal strategies such as the new approach to official languages.
  • Undertake and support research and analysis to assess the specific needs of diverse areas and to advocate for responses that are complementary and well balanced.


Priority 3 Type Program
Leadership through coordination and engagement with business, government and other stakeholders throughout the region to enable businesses to capitalize on emerging opportunities and address key challenges in areas such as skills. New Policy, Advocacy and Coordination
Why this is a priority
  • Atlantic Canadian businesses and industry have significant opportunity to capitalize on major projects that are occurring in the region over the coming years, including shipbuilding and energy-related projects. There is a need to ensure Atlantic SMEs are prepared for and able to capitalize on these opportunities while addressing challenges in areas such as skills. This requires coordinated support among stakeholders to maximize the economic benefits that may accrue to the region.

Plans for meeting the priority

  • Work with Atlantic SMEs and other partners to promote opportunities and enable businesses to prepare to capitalize on upcoming major projects in the region.
  • Advocate the capabilities of regional business in relation to major projects.
  • Analysis, engagement and strategy development to address skills challenges, particularly in relation to major projects.


Priority 4 Type Program
Continually improve the internal management of the organization and maintain employee engagement to excel in serving Canadians. Ongoing Internal Services
Why this is a priority
  • During the current period of fiscal restraint and organizational change, ACOA continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to deliver quality results for Canadians. To achieve its objectives, ACOA will have to sustain a diverse and skilled workforce. The Agency must maintain employee engagement at all levels to ensure efficient decision making that reflects corporate and operational risks. At this time, it is also critical for employees to understand and identify with the Public Service of Canada’s values, which are Respect for Democracy, Respect for People, Integrity, Stewardship, and Excellence, in order to behave in a respectful, ethical manner.

Plans for meeting the priority

  • Address the changes introduced through recent efficiency exercises in order to support employees and their development during the implementation of more effective ways of delivering programs and services.
  • 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 ACOA’s Values and Ethics Strategy to ensure that values are embedded in the Agency’s culture.
  • Reinforce ACOA’s commitment to maintaining strong human resource practices that are in keeping with public-service values, including fairness, access, transparency, representativeness, and the core values of merit and non-partisanship.

Risk Analysis

ACOA’s Operating Environment

ACOA’s work is driven by client requirements, strategic priorities, and the ever changing local and regional economic landscapes. The Agency’s broad-based approach to regional economic development aims to address the underlying structural challenges in the Atlantic economy, as well as the particular circumstances affecting each Atlantic province.

ACOA’s work is influenced by several external and internal factors that give rise to uncertainties that can affect the Agency’s ability to achieve expected results.

External Factors

The Atlantic economy has done quite well over the past few years, growing at the same pace as the national average, due to private-sector-led growth in dynamic sectors such as mining and oil and gas extraction, information and communication technologies, and the financial industry. Atlantic Canada’s medium-term outlook remains healthy, mainly due to continued investments in the mining and energy sectors and the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Still, there exists uncertainty around overall global economic conditions.

Atlantic Canada’s economy faces several risks. Slower economic growth throughout the world, and more specifically in the United States, combined with a strong Canadian dollar could create additional challenges to the region’s exporters. High household debt could also limit overall economic growth as domestic demand could be weaker. An aging population will also place pressure on skills and labour force availability.

Increasing global competition, along with the strong Canadian dollar, is requiring businesses in Atlantic Canada to become more competitive. One way for a firm to increase its competitiveness is to raise its level of productivity. While below the national average, Atlantic Canada has narrowed the productivity gap with the rest of Canada over the past few years. Moving forward, productivity increases will be the key factor to sustain growth in living standards of Atlantic Canadians.

Internal Factors

Given the above factors and the need for sound fiscal management, ACOA is committed to delivering quality results for Canadians by creating an environment in which both opportunities and challenges can be addressed. The Agency will maintain its knowledgeable and skilled workforce to respond to demands and expectations, while becoming more efficient and effective through its transformed internal business processes. In addition, ACOA will benefit from a strengthened integrated-risk-management function, which will allow the Agency to continuously identify, manage and monitor those risks that have the greatest potential to affect progress toward its strategic outcome and organizational priorities. Integrated risk management will help focus efforts and distribute resources in areas where risks are greatest, all of which support the ongoing efficiency and effectiveness of the Agency.

Corporate Risks

ACOA’s 2012 Corporate Risk Profile is the result of a comprehensive and inclusive risk assessment process that resulted in the following four key risks and corresponding response strategies for 2013-14.

Key Risk Response Strategy Linkage to Organizational Priority
Organizational Change Management

There is a risk that organizational change management efforts may not be sufficient to sustain and enhance productivity and overall effectiveness.

Management will mitigate this risk by fostering a management culture that supports opportunities for dialogue and engagement around change management. In addition, management will ensure appropriate focus on organizational change management through the adaptation of the integrated planning process. Finally, management will place particular attention on ensuring managers are properly equipped to lead change management efforts and assume their increased responsibilities resulting from the various organizational changes already introduced. Change management is linked directly to the Agency’s organizational priority to continually improve the internal management of the organization and maintain employee engagement.
Information Tools and Systems

There is a risk that an up-to-date suite of modern, compatible information tools and systems may not be developed in a timely manner, which may affect the effectiveness and efficiency of portfolio management and decision making.

Management will mitigate this risk by undertaking a comprehensive internal review to confirm business needs and technology gaps. The information gathered will be used to develop a new IT solutions strategy aimed at developing a more effective approach to providing standardized tools while respecting the government's goal of realizing cost efficiencies. Up-to-date and compatible information tools and systems play a critical role in ensuring efficient and effective decision making at all levels of the organization, with a direct link to the Agency’s priority to continually improve the internal management of the organization.
Portfolio Management

There is a risk that existing evaluation, project selection, disbursement, monitoring and portfolio management activities may not be sufficient to manage portfolio risk, ensure an optimal level of collections and control the level of write-offs, resulting in lost opportunities for reinvestment and potential impact on the Agency’s overall effectiveness and reputation.

Management will mitigate this risk through continued emphasis on improving work processes, enhancing guidance and reference materials that support program delivery, as well as expanding the availability and adequacy of tools to better support monitoring and oversight of portfolio activities. There will be continued focus on training activities and sharing of lesson learned. Portfolio management and, more specifically, project selection are linked directly to the Agency’s organizational priority to focus its programs and services on initiatives that encourage Atlantic Canadian businesses to become more innovative, productive and competitive in the global marketplace and that enable business to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Effective project selection will also play a critical role in the Agency’s priority to balance the strategic needs and opportunities of both rural and urban areas.
Response to Opportunities and Management of Stakeholder Expectations

There is a risk that the Agency may not be able to effectively respond to opportunities and manage increasing client and stakeholder expectations.

Management will mitigate this risk through continued monitoring, effective communication, and collaboration with stakeholders through the Agency’s many points of contact, and integration of input in the Agency’s planning processes and strategic decision making. Effectively responding to opportunities and managing stakeholder expectations will help focus programs and services on initiatives that encourage Atlantic Canadian businesses to become more innovative, productive and competitive in the global marketplace and that enable business to capitalize on emerging opportunities. It will also help the Agency recognize the distinct economic development needs of Atlantic Canada’s rural and urban areas and plan programs that balance the strategic needs and opportunities of both areas.

Planning Summary

Financial Resources (Planned Spending – $ millions)

Total Budgetary Expenditures
(Main Estimates)
300.0 300.0 282.4 282.5

Human Resources (full-time equivalents – FTEs)

2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
565 547 547

Planning Summary Table
($ millions)

Alignment to
of Canada
Advocacy and

Spending decreases for the Internal Services program are attributable to Budget 2011 and Budget 2012 efficiency measures savings and to the transfer of some information technology expenses to Shared Services Canada. The reduction in FTEs from 2013-14 to 2014-15 is a result of previous workforce reduction exercises.

The decline in total Agency spending since 2010-11 is mainly due to the completion of two initiatives under Canada’s Economic Action Plan3 (as illustrated in the trend analysis), and as a result of Budget 2011 and Budget 2012 savings. Further explanations of variations between forecast and planned spending can be found in the Expenditure Profile section.

Expenditure Profile

For fiscal year 2013-14, the Agency’s available funding in the Main Estimates is $300.0 million. This represents a decrease of $22.0 million (6%) from the 2012-13 forecast spending of $322.0 million and is due to a number of normal business practices and procedures, including:

  • impacts of program realignment and efficiencies
    • a $9.7 million decrease resulting from savings identified during the Agency’s Strategic and Operating Review resulting from Budget 2012;
    • a $4.4 million decrease resulting from operational savings identified during the Agency’s Strategic Review process.
  • forecast spending for 2012-13 includes parliamentary authorities received after the tabling of the 2012-13 Main Estimates. These yearly adjustments represent a decrease of $11.5 million compared to authorities approved to date for 2013-14.
    • $7.1 million in funding from repayable collections. The Agency received funding in 2012-13 from repayable contributions that were greater than what is included in the Agency’s reference levels. An adjustment is required annually to account for collections in excess of the base amount included in the reference levels;
    • $3.6 million resulting from the reimbursement of pay-list requirements (severance pay, vacation credits payable upon termination of employment, and parental benefits), minus $0.4 million due to a transfer from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat for compensation adjustments. These are yearly adjustments done through the supplementary estimates and other mechanisms; and
    • $1.2 million resulting from the transfer of funds from National Defence to ACOA in 2012-13 for assistance in organizing and delivering the Halifax International Security Forum. The memorandum of understanding includes an additional transfer of $1.2 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

The same elements will increase the authorities for 2013-14 during the course of the fiscal year; however, the amounts will vary.

  • impacts of termination of funding initiatives and agreements
    • a $2.2 million decrease due to the expected end of funding for the Economic Development Initiative of the 2008-13 Federal Strategy for Official Languages;
    • a $0.8 million increase resulting from the termination of a transfer to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in support of the North American Platform Program partnership.
  • impacts of other increases
    • a $5.0 million increase through the final instalment of special funding to support community economic development priorities in New Brunswick relating to community projects such as the establishment of multifunctional facilities and new recreational infrastructures.

In 2014-15, planned spending will decrease to $282.4 million, a $17.6 million (6%) change from $300 million in 2013-14. This is due to:

  • an $8.3 million decrease resulting from the sunsetting of funding under the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund;
  • a $6.0 million decrease in funding reflecting the final payments over two fiscal years to support community economic development priorities in New Brunswick;
  • an additional $3.5 million in savings identified as part of the Budget 2012 Spending Review; and
  • a $0.2 million increase due to collective bargaining.

In 2015-16, forecast spending of $282.5 million indicates an increase of $0.1 million (0.04%) compared with 2014-15 forecast spending of $282.4 million. The small increase is attributable to minor adjustments.

Trend Analysis

The figure below illustrates the Agency’s actual, forecast and planned spending from 2009-10 to 2015-16.

Trend graph: actual-forecast-planned spending, 7 fiscal years

Excluding sunsetting programs (which represent actual spending of $64.2 million in 2009-10, $81.3 million in 2010-11 and $3.1 million in 2011-12), the Agency’s spending levels from fiscal year 2010-11 to fiscal year 2014-15 will decline mainly as a result of Budget 2011 and Budget 2012. These budgets focused primarily on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and programs to ensure value for taxpayers’ money. The planned spending levels stabilize in fiscal year 2014-15.

Estimates by Vote

For information on the Agency’s appropriations, see the publication 2013-14 Main Estimates.

Contribution to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) outlines the Government of Canada’s commitment to improving the transparency of environmental decision making by articulating its key strategic environmental goals and targets. The government will be consulting the public in 2013-14 regarding the second three-year cycle of the FSDS (2013-16). The 2013-16 FSDS will be finalized in 2013-14. It will be presented as part of the year-end performance reporting for 2013-14.

ACOA ensures that consideration of these outcomes is an integral part of its decision-making processes. In particular, through the federal Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process, any new policy, plan or program initiative includes an analysis of its impact on attaining the FSDS goals and targets. The results of SEAs are made public when an initiative is announced, demonstrating the Agency’s commitment to achieving the FSDS goals and targets.

As denoted by the visual identifiers below, ACOA contributes to Theme I (Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality) and Theme IV (Shrinking the Environmental Footprint – Beginning with Government).

Logo: FSDS Theme 1

Theme I
Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality 

Logo: FSDS Theme 4

Theme IV
Shrinking the Environmental Footprint – Beginning with Government

These contributions, further explained in Section II, are components of the following two programs:

  • Policy, Advocacy and Coordination
  • Internal Services

For additional details on ACOA’s activities to support sustainable development, see the Agency’s website.

For complete details on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, see Environment Canada’s website.

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

[2] “Type” definitions:

  • New (newly committed to for fiscal year 2013-14)
  • Previously committed to (committed to one or two fiscal years earlier, i.e. 2011-12 or 2012-13)
  • Ongoing (committed to at least three fiscal years earlier, i.e. 2010-11 or earlier)

[3] Recreational Infrastructure Canada and Community Adjustment Fund