Nova Scotia must compete on a global level. And that means not only supporting our local economy, but also increasing exports from our province to people around the world.
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.
There are three ways we know we can grow and attract globally competitive companies to Nova Scotia:
- Productivity and innovation
- Trade and foreign direct investment
- Rural growth through creative industries, tourism, innovation and entrepreneurship
1. Productivity and Innovation
- Incentivize business-driven R&D and commercialization. Provincial government support of R&D and commercialization should focus on areas of provincial priority, with funding eventually coming in line with the national per capita average, and leverage additional sources of funding from out of province. The process should be centralized and simplified with independent experts providing sound and objective technical evaluation and selection. The Department of Business, in partnership with others, should lead the development of “clusters” of innovative activities in strategic priority areas. The federal and provincial governments should maintain the SR&ED tax credit, which has proven to be significant benefit, particularly for smaller innovative companies.
- Support public procurement for innovation in public services such as health and education. The Government of Nova Scotia should target a limited portion of procurement in health, education and other public services to support commercialization of locally-developed innovation.
2. Trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
- Find new ways to support talent, innovation and commercialization. NSBI should shift its FDI incentives toward the support of innovation. For example, companies that might have been offered a payroll rebate could be provided instead with vouchers or credits to be used at Nova Scotia’s universities or NSCC to: develop education and training programs; attract top students for co-ops, internships, or work placements; undertake R&D, or develop innovative products or processes, in collaboration with PSE institutions; or build facilities for R&D and other elements of the innovation process. This approach seeks to integrate the private sector more closely into Nova Scotia’s innovation networks and to attract companies that are prepared to sink deeper roots into the economy and create jobs that are durable.
- Remove trade barriers and improve the ease of doing business. The Government of Nova Scotia should seek to harmonize regulations and remove trade barriers among the Atlantic or Maritime Provinces through a “New East Partnership.” The new provincial Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness, which operates jointly with New Brunswick, should evaluate the attractiveness of Nova Scotia in comparison to other provinces (including how to speed up and simplify the process for incorporation of companies). Nova Scotia’s approach should feature public accountability based on rigorous metrics and an ambition to be the best place in Canada to start and run a business.
- Enhance trade programs. In collaboration with the federal trade agencies, NSBI should develop tools to help companies comply with interprovincial and international regulations, customs, tax, and other such requirements (e.g. a “certification centre” to help companies obtain the certifications and approvals needed to trade globally). NSBI should also leverage the ConnectNS network of current and former residents, university alumni networks, and international students to mentor Nova Scotian exporters and to attract international companies to locate here. Additionally, NSBI should address the specific needs of Nova Scotia’s “creative industries” to market inter-provincially and internationally.
3. The Rural-Urban Advantage
- Grow and support our creative industries. Our creative culture is a competitive advantage. Nova Scotia should develop an action plan specific to the creative sector and connect the idea of business, entrepreneurship and innovation to the arts, so the creative class sees Nova Scotia as a place where they can grow, learn and do business, including through arts and cultural districts to encourage co-location of innovative businesses.
- Revolutionize our approach to tourism. To compete on a global scale, we should constantly upgrade the experiences visitors can have in Nova Scotia. This includes significantly expanding Nova Scotia’s calendar of festivals and events, with the goal of eventually having at least two signature events—of the calibre of Celtic Colours, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, or the Halifax Jazz Festival—each month from May through October; creating a select number of signature destinations—e.g., of the calibre of the new world-ranked Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs golf courses; adding more year-round attractions to stimulate off-season demand—e.g., an aquarium featuring the sea life of the north-west Atlantic; and improving air access with convenient and affordable air routes to larger urban centres as well as expanded cruise opportunities.
- Local food and beverage. Continue to support our very high quality local food and beverage industry, including meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, juice, milk, wine, spirits, and beer.
- Focus on building rural innovation and entrepreneurship. Economic development in our rural and small communities needs to be comprehensive, collaborative and reflect a fundamental shift in attitude. Using a tailored strategy, we should focus efforts on creating enterprise hubs in growing sectors, maximizing the impact of our post-secondary institutions, and developing initiatives in resource-based industries.
- Upfront planning for resource development. The coalition recommends the Government of Nova Scotia should implement comprehensive land-use and ocean-use planning informed by public engagement and First Nations consultation processes. The Province’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness should review all legislation, regulations, policies and processes affecting resource industries to ensure they are fair, effective, transparent, timely and predictable, while delivering on the environmental, health and safety protections expected by Nova Scotians. The provincial government should establish an independent regulatory approach, similar to that of the Utility and Review Board, for approvals and enforcement in order to create a fair and transparent environment. The government should also consider developing a royalty-sharing arrangement that includes First Nations, local communities, and municipalities.
- Facilitating the transition of small-business ownership. The Department of Business should create, maintain and promote an online database as a definitive, up-to-date source of information describing small businesses for sale in Nova Scotia. Additionally, the program should be reviewed to determine whether it is effective in addressing market gaps in financing the purchase of small businesses in rural areas and small communities.