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Cumberland County can exceed the vision

Where have we come from, where are we today and where are we going? It’s a question that has plagued mankind for generations and without becoming to philosophical, it’s something Cumberland County’s business leaders are working on as they continue several years after the fact to take the next steps presented by the Ivany report to shape Nova Scotia’s new economy.

When she was first elected as the MLA for Cumberland North in the 2017 provincial election, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin developed a strategic plan for her first term. An integral part of that strategy was to improve the economy and it’s something she continues to make a priority with her recent partnership with the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce to host Exceeding the Vision, a panel discussion on growing the economy of Cumberland North.

During the Aug. 15 discussion, one of the area’s most successful businesspeople very bluntly pointed out that Nova Scotians and Cumberland County residents can’t hold their hands out and expect government to provide the solutions the region’s economic woes.

Stephen Emmerson said it’s up to the community and its people to change their attitudes and to begin taking charge of their own destinies. Emmerson was very correct when he said the problem with today’s society is too many people are prepared to let someone else make choices for them – whether it’s the government or another person.

Emmerson Packaging, the company of which he is the president and CEO, is one of Amherst’s most successful employers. It has markets across North America that it services from its facility in the industrial park – as well as another facility in Ontario.

The company is one of Amherst’s largest employers and it has been in a state of almost constant growth since first setting up shop here in the 1980s. It’s also a company we can ill afford to lose.

Like other companies in Cumberland County, however, Emmerson Packaging has a labour shortage – it cannot find enough staff. Yes, the work is hard, but the system as it exists today does not promote productivity. Instead, people work the time needed to qualify for Employment Insurance and then leave or decide that living on social assistance is much easier than working for a living.

For Cumberland North, the county and the province as a whole to be successful people need to become motivated. They need to come to the realization that their lives and those of others will improve if they join the workforce.

At the same time, governments at the provincial and federal levels do have a responsibility to ensure employers treat their workers with respect, protect their safety and make sure they are earning a wage that enables them to live.

There will always be cases in which people can’t join the workforce, such as a physical challenge or family situation, but business and government do need to work in partnership to entice more people to join the workforce. While we can’t expect government to do all the work, as pointed out in the One Nova Scotia Report, it still has to be part of the solution.

In doing so, with more people working there’s more economic activity and more money to circulate within the community. Instead of working in silos or maintaining the status quo, Emmerson, Smith-McCrossin and other panel participants at the Exceeding the Vision presentation are very correct when they say it will take everyone working together to turn what has been a negative economic story into a positive one.

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