Now or Never Report: An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians
In 2013, the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy conducted research and held public consultations across Nova Scotia in pursuit of ideas for building a prosperous economy where future generations can live and thrive.
The Commission saw a profound need for Nova Scotians to come together around a shared vision for real change in the province. One in which the different regions, communities and economic sectors can all see a better future, and are willing to pursue it through dialogue, cooperation and collaboration rather than isolation, competition and conflict.
With this perspective, the Commission shaped the Now or Never Report around three core messages:
- Yes, there is a crisis, and it does not threaten the basic economic and demographic viability of our province, most dramatically in our rural regions;
- We are not doomed to permanent have-not status: in an improving macroeconomic climate, driven by expanding global trade, Nova Scotia has the assets, opportunities, institutional capacities and human capital to turn around its current outlook and build a much more positive future; and
- While the continuing retreat of the federal government from a regional development role and fiscal weakness at the provincial level are serious constraints, the single most significant impediment to change and renewal is the lack of a shared vision and commitment to economic growth and renewal across our province and among our key institutions and stakeholder communities.
With these propositions in mind, the policy advice and strategic directions put forward in this report are directed not only to the government of Nova Scotia, but to leaders and decision-makers in all our key sectors – business and labour, municipal, provincial and federal governments and First Nations, strategic institutions (universities, the community college, school boards, etc.), voluntary sector organizations and communities.
It was the Commission’s conviction that the active engagement of all those stakeholders was required if we were to achieve meaningful economic and demographic improvements. Building on that foundation, The Now or Never report goes into great detail on the State of the Province's Economy in 2013 to the New Stretch Goals for Nova Scotia
We Choose Now
Our plan asks Nova Scotians to work collaboratively. The importance of stakeholder and citizen involvement in creating sustainable change cannot be overstated. Every specific is not determined in our plan — nor should they be — because stakeholders must be partners in designing and implementing the solutions. This is how we will achieve broadly supported, long-term results.
The ONE Nova Scotia Coalition is very cognizant of the sense of urgency expressed in the Ivany Report. Our plan has a very deliberate focus on our best growth opportunities: our ocean-related industries and potential for strong expansion in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector. This is where our near-term economic recoveries will be found.
But there are also foundational issues to address if our long-term prospects are to improve. We recommend new approaches in education — beginning with early years pre-school development and continuing right through to post-secondary education and career training. We want to provide our young people with the best possible chance to maximize their future potential right here at home in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia — like many other jurisdictions — has experienced significant depopulation in rural communities. Our report provides a roadmap so communities may build on their strengths, collaborate within regions and become partners in creating solutions to stabilize rural Nova Scotia.
Our report recommends ongoing measurement of initiatives and public reporting of progress towards the goals in the Ivany Report. We also propose an independent structure to ensure the plan is advanced over its 10-year timeframe. This combination offers a unique approach to keep our plan on track.
Together, we need to make sure every child is ready upon entering Primary. Early childhood education and development has exceptionally high returns to society as a whole. The early years of a child’s life are critical determinants of life-long physical, emotional, social, cognitive and language development. Pre-school programming also enables more parents to access employment opportunities and, over the long term, improves youth participation in the workforce.
The challenge, however, is that net outmigration has reduced the population of Nova Scotians aged 20-29 by an average of 1.3 percent annually from 2004 to 2014. We must reverse this demographic decline and leverage our 5Cs: culture, creativity, community, charm, and character. To do this, Nova Scotia must make greater strides in boosting the employment rate of youth, as well as the workforce participation of youth who are not in education, employment or training. A concerted effort to develop a coordinated youth strategy that maximizes youth opportunities and retention should be an immediate priority.
There are approximately 56,000 students attending post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia, with about 22,000 coming here to study from other provinces and countries. We challenge these institutions to play an even greater role as regional innovation hubs that connect with surrounding communities and strengthen opportunities for students to benefit from experiential learning.
And that means attracting more people from other provinces and countries. Interprovincial migration—for example, attracting recent immigrants or native Nova Scotians here from other provinces—is another method of boosting our population.
This rapidly evolving technology is transforming everything it touches, with its limits still nowhere in sight.
The key to increasing exports and economic growth is global competitiveness, without the aid of a weak currency. This durable form of competitiveness depends on a combination of innovation, to make one’s product more attractive, and productivity, to make it more cost-efficiently. This is how the interrelated phenomena of globalization, innovation, and competitiveness lead to durable economic prosperity, which is a precondition for improved standards of living, including the availability of educational, health, and social services that are otherwise threatened by a stagnant economy and an aging population.
It is a sector that accounts for seven per cent of our GDP and about 35,000 jobs, with significant opportunities for growth and expansion.
There are limitless ways to increase our oceans investment, tapping into a wealth of potential innovation, economic expansion and opportunities to retain our youth by attracting and developing entrepreneurial talent.