N.S. Finance Minister Diana Whalen in Yarmouth March 17.
ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
Nova Scotia’s finance minister says the provincial government is “very firmly behind” the effort to restore ferry service in Yarmouth and she says getting a new ship – while great in itself – should generate some momentum in the local economy, hopefully setting the stage for small business growth.
Having another ferry here “is going to certainly send a signal,” said Diana Whalen during a visit to Yarmouth, adding that she sees the new service as symbolic of “a change in attitude and new opportunity coming back to the (Yarmouth) area.”
That Yarmouth is getting a ferry back is welcome news right across the province, the minister said in a March 17 address to the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce. She mentioned the ferry again in an interview after her speech, tying it in with what she says is her government’s commitment to small business.
The new ferry service – still scheduled to start May 1, according to recent statements by the operators of the service – is “a signal that things are changing, that you’re turning the corner,” the minister said, “and then I hope that that signal translates to people who want to expand their business a little bit, hire one more person, maybe reinstate some (employees) that they might have lost before.”
She spoke about the importance not just of the small business sector but also of the need to try to encourage more young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career path.
Saying the government doesn’t create jobs -- the private sector does – she said the province can try to create a better environment in which business can operate, citing as an example her government’s tax and regulatory review, a recently announced initiative headed by Laurel Broten, a public policy expert and former senior cabinet minister from Ontario.
The idea is that a better regulatory system, one that’s “less onerous on business,” the minister said, will help foster economic growth. Job opportunities, in turn, are important in trying to address one of Nova Scotia’s biggest challenges: encouraging more people, young people in particular, to stay here, she said.
“If we’re thinking long term, we’re going to have to start training people and getting them into jobs, maybe grooming them to be entrepreneurs,” she said. Given the demographics and what could happen if things don’t change – as highlighted in the Ivany commission report – this is “probably our most pressing issue,” the finance minister said.
The minister soon will table her first budget, but she wouldn’t give a precise date, saying only that MLAs return to the House March 27 and that the budget normally is presented a week or two after the legislature resumes.
She said her address to the Yarmouth chamber was not a pre-budget consultation – given that most of the work for this budget has been done – but rather “the start of a dialogue,” one that will give Nova Scotians a chance to respond to what the province is doing and to provide input on what it should do in the future.
“After the budget comes out we’re going to do some post-budget speeches, which will mean I’ll actually come with our budget and say ‘look, this is what happened this year. This is where we’re at. Now let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s get your advice.’”