Chamber’s New Year’s Message
I am convinced that historians will look back to 2011 as a watershed moment in Nova Scotia’s history. It was a time when the harsh realities of changing economic, social and demographic challenges led some to believe our small, have-not province had finally met its match. Oh ye of little faith.
As a seemingly endless series of doors closed over the past number of years, 2011 saw a new group of doors beckoning us to open them to find our way to the future.
NewPage and Bowater are large employers, (by Nova Scotia standards) in troubled industries, made obsolete by the technologies that are supposed to make our lives better. Scanwood was a reminder that even being part of a global value chain is a function of global competitiveness. Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent success as an energy and natural resource powerhouse only serves as a reminder of our own lost opportunity to assume the same title.
Where does the future of our province lie?
Here we sit jutting out into the cold, North Atlantic ocean, connected to the mainland by only a tiny sliver of land that given a high tide would all but disappear. We are people of the sea, surrounded on all sides by water – and salt water at that – not fit to drink, too cold for swimming, and too brine to freeze. Would it not be better to be surrounded by fields of wheat or mounds of minerals? Is this predicament the fore-teller of our fate?
In any economic strategy we look for a competitive advantage on which to successfully compete. The emphasis has for the last number of years been on our people and particularly our smart people. We talk about our wealth of post secondary institutions, the home of some of the smartest people and the source of many of the others. But as the new doors presented to us in 2011 stand before us waiting to be opened it is important to also remember one other great competitive advantage – we are home to Canada’s navy and the significant resources that are needed to support it. The role of the ocean itself is coincidental, most often referred to as a transportation route or of a thing of wondrous beauty. But as our ancestors knew when they came here and turned Halifax into one of the world’s leading centres of its day, the ocean has a great role to play not just in the history of Nova Scotia’s economy, but in the future as well. There is a plaque in the trophy room at City Hall inscribed with an early motto: “From the sea, wealth” and never more truer words have been spoken.
If there is one thing that 2011 should be known for it’s the rallying cry of “Ships Start Here!”. The expression came to mean so much more than just winning a bidding process; it was about solidifying a future for Nova Scotia, one based on our long history of marine expertise; of working together to make Nova Scotia a better place; and showing everyone how proud and loyal we are to our home, each other and to the sea.
If 2011 was about igniting that spark and building confidence, then 2012 will be when we get down to work. It took a 25 billion dollar shipbuilding contract to both point out how much of our economy is still tied to ocean that surrounds us and to act as the catalyst that took our emerging cluster in ocean technologies and placed it at the forefront of this region’s economic future. Before us is an opportunity to correct decades of missteps and to adopt a new attitude toward growth, toward competition and toward the role that each of has to play in achieving the prosperity that is at hand.