Nova Scotia is a diverse collection of communities, each facing unique challenges as they try to develop in these times of economic uncertainty. The hurdles Nova Scotians must overcome to create a prosperous economy seem quite daunting. Our coffers are low and our demands are high. Our infrastructure is aging, as is our population, and our economic stability is too reliant on private enterprise and decisions made in Ottawa about the management of our abundant ocean resources and the funding of our health care.
As is the case in regions across Canada, the Nova Scotian economy is approached as the sacred superstructure from which prosperity flows. Progress and development in our province is measured in terms of our activities and outputs for a few key sectors: housing, food production (fisheries and agriculture), employment and energy. These are also the sectors upon which our economy is heavily reliant for growth. These sectors are healthy when our communities are healthy, and our communities are healthy when our population is healthy.
We rarely do interdisciplinary full-cost GPI accounting in the calculation of our yields. And many of the profits which are generated through Nova Scotian labour and resources are exported rather than reinvested into the infrastructures that produced them. This makes our economy unsustainable, and paralyses our ability to create and maintain our own economic stability. It also makes provision of long-term and stable funding to our communities extremely difficult.
Community organizations and the people who run them are continually being challenged to prove the economic validity of their work to the government, and increasingly to the private sector to which they must turn for resource based assistance. Yet they lack the capacity to produce such analyses due to the funding gaps that already exist for program delivery.
But Nova Scotia’s population requires additional support whether community organizations have the ability to prove this or not. By Canadian standards, our population is older, physically and mentally unhealthy, and experiencing poverty at higher levels than other provinces across the country. Therefore, we have a disproportionate number of people with special needs which require the use of more assistance and resources. But government, at all levels, is downloading the responsibility of care onto community organizations. Because these community organizations are unable to secure a long-term commitment from their municipal, provincial and federal overseers, the people who require extra assistance and resources are treated with band-aid solutions or left untreated. In either case, an individual’s ability to participate in the economy is dependent on how well all of their special needs are addressed.
Our current government is working from a negative budgetary position, which can potentially exacerbate these issues, but balancing a budget takes more than simple money. It requires creativity and collaborations within departments and across community, municipal and federal lines of jurisdiction. It requires a push in the direction of technological development and job creation in the green energy and communications sectors, and a commitment to reinvest in our communities. Our government can do its part in creating a bold new vision for Nova Scotia if it is willing and able to redefine what progress and development means for the province. It will also require a shift away from old paradigms framing progress around financial profit, and acknowledgement that our economy can only be prosperous if we reinvest in the people and communities that create and power them.
We have many challenges ahead of us which go beyond this fiscal year. In many ways balancing our current budget determine the budgets we will have in the future. Therefore it will require more than short-term economic analysis; it will require creativity, collaboration, reallocation and reorganization towards a prosperous Nova Scotia.