Nova Scotia Premier, the Honourable Darrell Dexter

Exclusive Interview

Nova Scotia Premier and Nova Scotia NDP leader, the Honourable Darrell Dexter, was elected to his position in June of 2009 (making his the first NDP government east of Ontario). Dexter, a lawyer by trade, was the first member of his family to attend university. He and the Nova Scotia NDP party are advocates for families and the working class.

Creating an environment where industry and business can thrive is the focus for Dexter. In a province inextricably linked to traditional fishery, Nova Scotia has expanded to incorporate other sustainable industries in its economic portfolio. And to best accommodate new business coming to the province, Dexter talks to The Canadian Business Journal about his government’s initiatives to continue attracting companies to his province. However, Dexter does not take an isolationists perspective on his province’s successes, rather he expresses a view that the Atlantic provinces ought to work in tandem on issues that affect them all.

Anna Guy: What incentives Are your government taking to attract businesses to Nova Scotia, both large and small?

Premier Darrell Dexter: This is a multi-faceted field where we are looking to address the many different kinds of needs of businesses who are looking for new locations. We have an industrial expansion fund which is a flexible program administered by our economic and rural development department and it provides a means for companies to access capital for innovation, expansion, education and training. We have helped established new industries, for instance recently partnering with Daewoo Shipbuilding and engineering for the reestablishment of the Trenton works plant in Pictou County. That company used to manufacture rail cars and is now being converted over to a wind turbine tower and park plant that is part of the new green economy.

We have pay incentives as they do in other provinces. We look at pay roll rebates so companies coming to set up in Nova Scotia can have rebated to them an amount of money equal to the taxes that would be paid—usually 5 to 10 per cent of eligible gross pay roll, which helps them with their employment cost as they are setting up in the province.

A tax credit that is increasingly being availed of is the digital media tax credit which is now a really growing industry here in the province. We have Honey Bee studios here (a major gaming company) and Long Hill Studio, to name a few. There is a great arts community in this province because of access to talent generated through community college system and universities here in the province.

Administered by the Department of Economic and Rural Development, we are hopeful many business will now benefits from the province’s new manufacturing and processing investment credit. The program reimburses companies 10 per cent of the cost of new equipment or technology that increases productivity, up to a maximum of $1 million. RKO Steel, based in Dartmouth, is the first company to receive the credit from the province for the purchase and installation of newer, more advanced technology which increases productivity. RKO Steel Limited is creating 30 new jobs with support from the province.

AG: Relative to the rest of Canada, how has the Nova Scotia economy fared these past few years?

DD: In the same way that Canada was seen as one of the most stable jurisdictions in the world, Nova Scotia was one of the most stable jurisdictions in Canada in the face of the financial crisis.

Nova Scotia didn’t suffer the same kind of downturn in the economy that other more manufacturing-intensive provinces did. We have a less cyclical economy. Certainly we saw softening in employment numbers and GDP growth all of those things expected in a recession but not the same kind of large downturns the rest of the country saw. We are projecting modest growth over next couple years, and we will turn that into an asset for us.

AG: We have interviewed the Mayor of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg who spoke to us about the rebuilding of the Bluenose II. Please comment on the importance of this initiative both in terms of economics and the profile of Nova Scotia maritime industries.

The restoration of Bluenose II is important of course to the town of Lunenburg and the entire province of Nova Scotia. The restoration highlights marine skills which are an important part of the Nova Scotia culture. Increasingly, the kind of work done on boats like the Bluenose is becoming a lost art, so it’s important that we maintain these skills that have been developed in this province.

The Bluenose II is an icon for the province of Nova Scotia, and is often referred to as our sailing ambassador. It is a big part of the heritage and image and what Nova Scotians identify as an emblem of our province.

AG: Please speak on the importance of the Bay of Fundy campaign.

DD: Certainly this is a great opportunity to highlight a significant asset for the province of Nova Scotia. We want everyone to go out to vote, cast a ballot and tell the world what many people in Nova Scotia and Canada already know, which is the Bay of Fundy is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. This would be a great opportunity for us to build on a significant tourism aspect for both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We think people should know that we have here truly a geologic and marine feature which is every bit as spectacular as the Grand Canyon. Everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon, but few people realise the Bay of Fundy is just as amazing.

AG: For what reason are you looking to expand the electricity capacity between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick? How will that increase renewable energy and economic growth?

DD: The reason why the energy corridor and interconnected nature of the Atlantic Provinces is going to be, in my view, the key to the economic future of our region, is that in order to be prosperous you need an electrical grid and a reliable energy mix. This is what we can provide in Nova Scotia, having the appropriate transmission capacity and pursuing as much new green energy as we can put online. This will make an attractive jurisdiction for companies to come to the Maritimes. I am the Premier of Nova Scotia but I am also very much a person who looks at this region as a whole economic entity. We have to lift off the pages of speeches the notion of Maritime economic cooperation and put it into practise. I have been telling people in my province that the success of Moncton is just as important as the success of Halifax. Likewise, we need to build interconnectivity on the electrical grid that will connect us all.

AG: Lastly, we are doing a cover story on the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy with Captain Darren Hawco. There is an indefatigable affection from Nova Scotians for the Navy, which I imagine you share.

DD: I don’t know if you know this, but I served in the Canadian Navy as an officer serving on the west coast. The history of the Navy in Nova Scotia is very much the history of the province as well. From its earliest foundation, Halifax was a naval town and it is still the case, that the defence and aerospace industry is a large contributor to the province—40 per cent of Canadian military assets are located in this province, the Navy being the biggest part of that. There is a tremendous connection between the province of Nova Scotia, the Canadian military and of course the industry that supports the Canadian Navy.

Thank you for speaking with us today.