Commentary with Geoff deGannes
To be told we are teetering on the brink of long-term decline is indeed a dire message. But as Ray Ivany, chairman of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy bluntly states, there is no other way to put it.
After 14 months of exhaustive study and public engagement, Ivany and his commission members, which included Cumberland County businessman John Bragg, unveiled a comprehensive document last week entitled: Now or Never: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians. It clearly spells out many of this province‚Äôs deficiencies and what needs to be done to steer us on a possible path to prosperity.
There are 19 goals ‚ÄĒ grouped in the areas of population, economic development and governance ‚ÄĒ and 12 strategic directions or "game changers."
What is not so clear is just how we are to accomplish some of these lofty goals.
The economic and demographic challenges we face are certainly daunting. Ivany points out Nova Scotia's population is expected to decline over the next 20 years as young people continue to leave the province to search for work. By 2036, the province expects to have 100,000 fewer working-age people than it did in 2010. On the economic front, Nova Scotia has recorded the worst performance of any province, on average, over the past 20 years. Ivany said this weakness can be traced, in part, to the province's lack of confidence in its business leaders and entrepreneurs.
That is a point well taken. We have a tendency to resist change and a reluctance to embrace and support entrepreneurship, particularly with our youth and newcomers to our province. To quote Ivany: "We're much quicker to move to suspicion about their motives than we are to celebrate their success."
The report suggests the need for a cultural shift from the status quo; an end to partisan politics and parochialism. As the report indicates, our situation is not all gloom and doom. We do have a post-secondary education system that is second to none to educate the workforce, drive R&D and attract thousands of young people into our province to study and work.
With expanding world markets, we have resource industries that can produce more output and add greater value to their exports. We have a base of successful businesses in traditional sectors and in the leading-edge fields of digital media, oceans technology, aerospace and information and communications technology.
What I draw from the report is the need for an attitude change, particularly within the political sphere of this province where consensus-building takes precedence in developing a new and innovative economic development strategy. As well, major municipal reform must be a cornerstone of that action plan.
I have a favourite quote pasted to my office wall from Winston Churchill that best describes the challenge faced by Nova Scotians. ‚ÄúA pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.‚ÄĚ
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.