“I’m worried,” said Ray Ivany in introducing One Nova Scotia’s road tour to its Yarmouth audience on Thursday evening.
Ivany is the chair of One Nova Scotia, an independent commission mandated by the Premier’s Advisory Committee on the Economy to gather input from Nova Scotians about the economic future of Nova Scotia and write a report with recommendations, based upon that input.
He pointed to two opposing forces that, if nothing is done to change their trajectory, threaten Nova Scotia’s future. The first is demographics the spread in the age of the province’s population (the percentage of the population in their working years is decreasing) and the second is the province’s sluggish economic growth.
“We don’t have the level of economic activity to allow us to have the prosperity that we want,” he told an audience of around 100 people at the Mariners Centre. “If we stay on the same track, obviously it won’t be the same Nova Scotia, … it will be a lesser Nova Scotia.”
With that blunt warning as the spur, the audience was challenged to identify a number of specific economic indicators.
In an opening exercise, participants were challenged to write up to three words that identify something the Nova Scotia economy needs to thrive. Jobs, leadership and vision were the top three things identified. Participants were asked to identify the businesses and enterprises in this community that are successful and what makes them successful. What qualities make life worth living here? What are challenges and barriers to success? How is success measured?
Several recurrent themes emerged – strengthen transportation infrastructure (get a ferry), reduce regulations and red tape that slow and inhibit business development, streamline local governance through amalgamation, transform the culture of defeatism and support local products and initiatives. Those were among many directives coming from the break out sessions.
The questions are being re-framed in sessions throughout the province. The answers will differ from community to community.
The commission members will take all the information gathered through the consultation process, which ends in April, and distill and condense key themes and enter its research phase. Another round of public consultations will be completed prior to issuance of its final report, within the next year.