McNeil, Grits still have work to do in order to improve Nova Scotia’s Economy

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Blois Banter with Kody Blois

Despite onus for private sector involvement, provincial government has its own responsibilities in helping turning around Nova Scotia’s economy

With the Ivany report released last week plenty of commentary has emerged regarding the document which gives recommendations of how to kick-start a lagging economy amid an uncertain and gloomy future. The report which has a strong qualitative aspect in discussing economic, political and cultural reform puts a large emphasis on the private sector to fuel Nova Scotia’s economic ascension. 

Premier Stephen McNeil and the provincial Liberals were quick to back the report’s findings, and McNeil gave a rallying cry to the province’s business leaders to take initiative during a luncheon at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. McNeil promised his government would support the private sector, but will not be a banker or take lead on the initiative. While I agree with McNeil that his government cannot play the leading role in turning our economic fortunes around, he and his government do have a responsibility to create the conditions necessary for that very same economic revival we all hope for.

First McNeil and the government have a responsibility to grow our renewable energy sector, although it is unlikely with our massive debt a public corporation will be created to pursue renewable energy alternatives, as discussed within the Ivany report; Nova Scotia is an untapped gold mine for renewable energy potential.

We as a province, more importantly our provincial government, should be actively pursuing businesses that are willing to invest to harness this renewable potential. There is tremendous potential to not only reduce our reliance on coal-fired electricity, but also the ability to export renewable energy to other Maritime Provinces or northern states. A recent example of the potential investment opportunity includes Maine based Halcyon which has plans of creating a tidal energy transmission station in Scots Bay which would create emission free electricity while injecting billions of dollars into our provincial economy.

Although our government doesn’t have to take the lead on these projects financially we should be hanging a proverbial “we’re open for business sign” and encouraging this type of investment with open arms.

Secondly the Ivany report made suggestions that a comprehensive study be conducted to search for cost saving measures and better use of public funds for municipalities and towns alike.  Our province has many smaller towns which could easily amalgamate into their closest respective municipalities, a notable example being in Pictou County where there are five towns within a twenty minute drive. Despite an increased effort for collaboration between these smaller municipalities for sharing resources and best allocation of funds, there are examples where amalgamation simply makes sense. That being said many small towns are unlikely to lay the axe on themselves, and this is where the provincial government needs to take leadership in pushing for the necessary reforms.

Lastly, as part of their election platform, the governing Liberals have the responsibility to try and increase immigration while balancing the public accounts. Granted the Liberals are inheriting a less than desirable fiscal situation with a declining tax base and a deficit of over $400 million, our immigration policy also requires co-operation from the federal government but the situation is capable of significant improvement.

There is good news on the immigration front reports are indicating a potential working relationship between the Feds and the province with Justice Minister Peter MacKay playing an integral role in opening negotiations. The fiscal situation will play itself out over the coming years, but with Nova Scotia having the dubious claim of the highest taxed jurisdiction in North America a lowered tax rate as a result of greater fiscal constraint by our government couldn’t help but contribute to a stronger economy.

Not many will argue that the private sector shouldn’t play an integral role in turning the tide of our lagging economy, but government must play an equally important role in creating the conditions to help the private sector succeed. So while Stephen McNeil is right in asking the private sector to step up, he himself has his own set of responsibilities, ones that are just as important in improving Nova Scotia’s economic future.

 

Kody Blois is a former goaltender with the Amherst Ramblers, now pursuing a commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University. You can follow him on twitter @kodyblois or follow his blog kodyblois@blogspot.ca

Organizations: Halifax Chamber of Commerce, First McNeil

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Maritime Provinces, Scots Bay Pictou County North America Saint Mary

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