By Jennifer Hoegg
Premier Darrell Dexter was in Kings County last week to stroll through Wolfville and Kentville with MLAs Ramona Jennex and Jim Morton.
Downtown walkabouts are not a hint an election is coming soon, Dexter said Jan. 28 in Kentville.
“I get that question any time now when I do an event of any kind,” the premier said while visiting Kings Riverside Court. “Mainly because it has been three-and-a-half, four years into the mandate.”
Dexter spent roughly an hour shaking hands and chatting with residents and staff at the assisted living home and helped Morton deliver 90th birthday greetings to resident Stewart Brown.
“This is really just a continuation of what we have been doing for sometime,” Dexter said. “I think people like to see their members of the legislature, like to see their premier. They have to know that we’re not just a figure on television… we’re people who have the same cares and desires and priorities that they have.”
Dexter answered a few questions on rural economic challenges while in town, including the municipalities’ mixed reaction to the province’s proposed model for regional economic networks (RENs) to replace regional development authorities.
“Our obvious desire is to facilitate what is going to work,” Dexter said. “My hope is that after people have a chance to look at it they’ll decide (to participate.)
Both sides have the same interest, he added.
“We have rural communities right around the province where the model of economic sustainability has changed… over the last 20 or 25 years.”
Dexter said relatively good economic times masked the economic decline in some parts of Nova Scotia.
“As soon as we had a recession, especially a deep one, all of a sudden all of those cracks in the economy really started to show.”
Forestry, Dexter said, is not alone among rural industries facing massive change.
“What we need to do is ensure that we’re carving a path forward where people can see a good result.”
Dexter pointed to his government’s decision to move offices outside of Halifax as an investment in rural Nova Scotia. When asked about moving the maintenance enforcement employees from the Department of Justice from Kentville to New Waterford, Dexter said the jobs would have moved regardless.
“The offices were being consolidated, so the only question was where they were going to be consolidated,” the premier said, adding the department’s plan had been to centralize in Halifax.
“There was already an office there in New Waterford with significant presence,” Dexter said. “We’re choosing to support rural communities.”
High speed hope
Dexter says 99.5 per cent of rural Nova Scotians can now get high-speed Internet service.
“It’s an ongoing process,” he said.
Residents in Hall’s Harbour and other western parts of the county have been vocal on the issue in recent months.
“Obviously the last hookups are the most difficult ones to get to and they are in the most difficult positions. We’re trying to find ways to make it a reality.”
Kings North MLA Jim Morton said the Department of Economic and Rural Development is considering a proposal from Eastlink to offer a pilot project with satellite Internet service.
“They want to make sure the proposal has a good chance of succeeding, of meeting the standards of the contract,” Morton said. “I think they’re close to getting some sort of an understanding.”