© Wendy Elliott
Ray Ivany, right, holds a copy of the Now or Never: An Urgent Call for Action for Nova Scotians report just prior to giving a talk in Wolfville. Beside him is Rev. Roger Prentice, president of the Wolfville and Area Inter-church Council, who introduced Ivany.
Ray Ivany, the head of the five-member panel that called for urgent action to improve Nova Scotia's economy, doesn’t think the report is going to sit and gather dust.
The Acadia University president told an audience of 90 at a Wolfville and Area Inter-church Council meeting on May 21 that from the first day back in February, people have engaged, and he's pleased with the reaction to their findings.
He told a story about being hailed on Barrington Street in Halifax by a car driver who called out, “‘thanks for telling the truth.’ That was a high point.”
Ivany reaffirmed his abiding belief that we can get through this, and equally that “we can’t avert our gaze. We can’t hope it will go away.
“I fervently believe we can turn it around,” Ivany said about the projections in the report. Otherwise, he said, “we are looking at a lesser Nova Scotia in every possible way.”
Ivany said the report has prompted wide discussions about the challenges facing the province.
Despite advice that Nova Scotia is doomed to endure an extended period of decline unless population trends are reversed and suspicious attitudes about business are changed, he said, an authentic dialogue has begun.
Ivany said demography alone is a massive issue for communities that are standing on the edge of a cliff. Increasing the size of Nova Scotia's population can be achieved by attracting more immigrants to the province and encouraging Nova Scotians living elsewhere to return home; however, Ivany says it will take time to get that done.
One of the first challenges he spoke of is making immigrants feel part of the community.
“That was a very consistent message,” Ivany said.
“We need more economic activity in every way.”
To carry that out, he said, attitudes and culture will have to change. Community will be fundamental to keeping young Nova Scotians - and their retired parents - at home, he added.
“Otherwise, the fabric of the community is going to change. The churches can play a huge role. This is not all about business, but about preserving our humanity. And one test is how we treat those that need a hand up,” he said.
Helping others tends to fall on the same few people, he said. He said that ‘community’ is not necessarily roads and infrastructure, “it’s the people and the sense of community that we create. I think we start in a position of huge strength.”
Specifically, Ivany called for “us to be more Nova Scotian. Instead of being fractured, we need to be as resourceful as our parents’ generation.”
He believes that in order to make the transition to a new economy, citizens of this province have to be willing to make a commitment and to look out for each other.
“For all of us, almost a million people, the journey starts with a single step. All 940,000 of us have to start tomorrow,” Ivany said.
“This is going to have to become a movement.”