Nova Scotia Building Momentum

first_imgAs 2018 draws to a close, it is a chance to reflect on how lucky we are to live in Nova Scotia. We enjoy our freedom, opportunity and strength of community. With these and our many other attributes, more young people, families and new Nova Scotians are seeing a life for themselves here. I’m very proud that for the second year in a row we can celebrate yet another record high for our population — almost 965,000. Our population growth since 2015 is more than we’ve seen in the last quarter-century. This good news reflects the momentum Nova Scotia is building. You may have also seen the recent stats about our province tracking toward another record year in immigration, with well over 5,000 landings. We’ve welcomed 15,000 immigrants to our province in the last three years — the most since the end of the Second World War. And we’re seeing more of these new Canadians stay in Nova Scotia — our retention rate has almost doubled in the last 15 years. I always enjoy meeting these new Nova Scotians, who bring a sense of optimism, enrich the diversity of our province and strengthen our economy. Young Nova Scotians are also seeing a future for themselves in the province. More of them are staying in Nova Scotia than leaving, something that hadn’t happened in consecutive years for close to three decades. We’re helping support options for our sons and daughters to stay or return here. There is growing interest in our workforce attachment programs like Graduate to Opportunity, which supports employers who hire recent graduates. Our startup community is thriving. Government is a partner in creating the spaces and expanding the networks that encourage and support people with an entrepreneurial spirit and great ideas to start their own companies. Volta, in Halifax’s innovation district, tripled its office space this year and has 40 startups on site. There’s another 40 at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) in Dartmouth. There are startup supports active from Sydney to Yarmouth. This tech environment is one reason young people are staying in the province, and it’s attracting interest and investment from outside our borders. While our participation in the new economy is growing, we continue to build on the success of traditional industries. Nova Scotia seafood exports surpassed $2 billion last year, again leading the country. This year’s total is tracking even higher. Our tourism industry has had another excellent year, including record-breaking cruise ship seasons at the Port of Sydney and the Port of Halifax. Tourism is a Nova Scotia success story, with strong growth in the number of visitors and revenue over the last five years and I congratulate all those involved in building this important sector of our economy. Government is doing its part to enhance the conditions for growth with its stable fiscal approach. We are forecasting a third consecutive balanced budget. In September, credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s upgraded Nova Scotia’s rating to the highest they’ve ever had us, sending an important signal that we’re a stable and well-managed province. We’re also making Nova Scotia a more attractive place to do business with a concerted effort to reduce red tape. We’re making good on our commitment to reduce the regulatory burden on business by a net value of $25 million, and we’re not going to stop there. We will keep up the effort to be efficient, and make sure regulations make sense. We’ve lowered the cost of incorporation for businesses, and we just eliminated the fee for businesses already registered in another province to register here. In 2018, we saw unemployment rates among the lowest since Statistics Canada started its labour force survey in 1976, while full-time employment reached a new high. Finding ways to help entrepreneurs and the economy flourish benefits us all. It creates jobs, strengthens communities, and generates the revenue needed to provide programs and services for Nova Scotians. There are now close to 3,000 four-year-olds in our province benefitting from pre-primary, perhaps our most significant new social program in a generation. This is the second year of our four-year plan to extend this program across the province. Every child, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, deserves the chance to have the best foundation possible entering school. We are improving supports for those less fortunate. This year also saw the biggest tax cut in our recent history take effect — an increase in the basic personal exemption for personal income tax for 500,000 Nova Scotians, with 60,000 of them no longer paying provincial income tax.| Healthy breakfast programs are now in place at 93 per cent of our schools, the highest rate in the country. Clients of the Department of Community Services are keeping more of the money they earn and there will be increased support in the new year. Health care is top of mind for many Nova Scotians and that means it’s top of mind for government too. We face challenges in health care just like all provinces and we are working hard to get our health-care system where we all want it to be. We are making changes and starting to see some progress. More than 100 new family doctors and specialists have started practicing in Nova Scotia this year, and we are one of the only provinces to increase residency spaces for family doctors and specialists, which helps recruitment and retention. Our physician immigration stream – the first of its kind in Canada – launched this year and has already seen 18 doctors approved. Wait lists for hip and knee surgeries are coming down and the number of orthopedic surgeries has increased. This year gave us many signs of positive momentum for 2019 and beyond. It has also been filled with moments, efforts and accomplishments that have made me so proud to be the premier of this province. Let me share two that stand out. On June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, I had the honour to be part of the opening of the first Aboriginal Wellness and Gladue Court, in Wagmatcook. Mi’kmaq chiefs, the family of Donald Marshall Jr., the community and the judiciary gathered for this historic event — it’s the first court of its kind in Canada — and it’s something all Nova Scotians can take pride in. And this summer, the community of Antigonish and the surrounding area wrapped their arms around this country’s Special Olympians, hosting the national summer games. These athletes showed us the best of the human spirit, and I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers and everyone else who made the games such a success. As we ring in another new year, let’s remember what these athletes showed us — kindness, compassion and finding joy in the success of others. May their legacy be part of a happy and safe 2019 for us all. -30-last_img

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