Nova Scotia needs to be better

Nova Scotia is a beautiful, rugged place filled with caring people and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up there. However, it is very sad that exporting its young, motivated and educated residents seems to be the only thing Nova Scotia is good at today.

I grew up in Sydney (Nova Scotia) and I now live in Melbourne, Australia where I work in local government as a town planner. I know a number of other former Nova Scotians living Down Under as well and I am certain that there are many other Nova Scotians down here that I do not know.

Nova Scotia certainly punches above its weight in terms of representation in Australia and the story is the same across the big cities of Canada. The Nova Scotian diaspora is enormous and it grows daily. And why wouldn’t young, educated and motivated young Nova Scotians want to come to such places?

Let us take Australia, for example, which offers a high minimum wage (it equates to $18 Canadian per hour), excellent work-life balance (our work week is 38 hours), and penalty rates if you work unusual hours (150 per cent of the hourly rate for nightshift and Saturdays; 200 per cent for work on Sundays; 250 per cent for public holidays). Our economy is strong and we are at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy.

Even other parts of Canada are stepping up to the plate to raise the standard of living for the average person. Ontario and Alberta are excellent examples of jurisdictions working to be competitive on the world stage and they’re being rewarded for their effort.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, has one of the lowest minimum wages in Canada at $10.85 per hour and that is if you are lucky enough to find a job. There are minimal protections for workers and a collective mindset that focuses on a race to the bottom, rather than helping one another with a hand up. It’s no wonder why young people are heading west from the Maritimes in droves to find a better life. And – as we say Down Under – good on ’em! They deserve better than what is on offer in Nova Scotia.

The province is experiencing a ‘brain drain’ and until the politicians, business-owners and community stop being so stubborn and start working to create a modern, equitable economy the number one export of the province will continue to be its young, educated go-getters – the so-called leaders of the future … but not Nova Scotia’s future.

Nova Scotia can do better. Many Nova Scotians want to do better. I believe with hard work and openness to change a better future can be a reality and, just maybe, my generation might one day be able to return to our beloved homeland.

This commentary was originally published in the Cape Breton Post on 18 January 2018.