NSNow: Let’s focus on small firms that define Province

NSNow: Let's focus on small firms that define ProvinceThis article was originally posted on Facebook by David Upton, then published by the Chronicle Herald as part of their "Now! Nova Scotia" which examines — in the wake of the Ivany report — the challenges and opportunities faced by our province in today's economy.

You can see the published article HERE. By: David Upton


The year 2015 has been filled with a lot of almost-happened and coming-soons in Nova Scotia. Although we talk about change and we feel it in the air, it has yet to touch the ground in any meaningful way.

Two things that I have to get off my chest right off the bat:

1. We need to stop equating money with intelligence — who hasn’t heard of Donald Trump?

2. White (mostly older) men have to get over themselves. We had our turn to lead. Maybe we should let someone else try for a while. We haven’t been that good at it (this includes the folks in No. 1). Arguing about this is like disbelieving in climate change. The results can be seen everywhere.

We have to make our own way in this province, and we used to be really good at it. Canadian domestic policy has never been our best friend, and that isn’t likely to change, so we must. I suggest we listen to some off-the-wall thinkers and try, really try, to let someone, many someones, take a fresh turn at steering the good ship Nova Scotia’s job-creation and quality-of-life projects. We know that small businesses create most of the new jobs, and yet we continue to fund the big companies to do it at the expense of little ones. It is the easy way out and has never worked for us. Continuing is, by definition , insane.

Here are my suggestions for 2016, in no particular order:

1. Our future is small — embrace it. If most of us wanted to be like Toronto and Waterloo, we would move there.

2. Support small farmers, wood harvesters and fishers. Help them innovate and add value to their products. Let the big money in Nova Scotia make their next billion on their own. We’ve already done our part for them.

3. Older people need to make way for the young. I don’t mean retire, take pay cuts or give away our money. But surely we can all make room to share our experience in a supportive way and provide opportunities to the generation waiting in line. Opportunities like we received — cheap education, jobs that mattered, you know, stuff like that.

4. I support public pensions. In fact, my life partner will be a beneficiary in the near future. Shouldn’t all of the public pension money be invested in Nova Scotia? After all, most of it is ours. Create a new law and put the money to work here, now.

5. Create a disincentive to leave RRSPs in mutual funds that invest 98 per cent of our money in other provinces. You want a tax break in Nova Scotia. Do something about it. This is a good rule.

6. Businesses that have a social, cultural or environmental mission at their core should be the only businesses that receive support from our government. If a company can’t prove how it provides value beyond jobs and profits for owners, that’s fine; they’re welcome here. Just don’t expect taxpayers to support them.

7. Let’s quit talking about growth. Not all growth is good (you should have seen the weeds in my garden last summer). Let’s talk about value and quality of life, let’s talk about eliminating childhood poverty in this rich place, let’s talk about people things, not money things.

8. No more investing in private companies that will sell themselves to Silicon Valley. I have no problem with people making lots of money, but we know the trickle-down theory doesn’t work. Ronald Reagan liked that theory, but he was a television actor with a part in an eight-year presidential sitcom.

9. Halifax is a government, university and hospital town. It is a great place, and I love it, but it isn’t the economic driver of the province. We need to support and celebrate rural Nova Scotia. It is what makes us great and drives our exports.

10. We need to care about each other a lot more. Listening to the other folks in the conversation and giving them a little room at the table is only going to help us in the long run.

May 2016 be the year that Nova Scotia gets brave and dares to live up to its potential. I wish you all the best in the new year.