TRURO – The finance minister and deputy minister of Nova Scotia, Diana Whalen, spoke with the Truro Daily News on Monday. The following are some questions and answers provided during the session.
Finance Minster Diana Whalen sits among local business representatives at the Marigold Cultural Centre in Truro on Monday. The roundtable was the focus of the issues businesses are facing. BAILLIE SAUNDERS- SPECIAL TO THE TRURO DAILY NEWS
Q: Colchester County recently saw the Colchester Regional Development Association (CoRDA) disband. Do you believe that will hurt this area compared to using a regional enterprise network that is replacing it?
A: “CoRDA did good work but … we want to continue with (regional enterprise networks) because we feel there is a gap. We have to now reassess and move forward.”
Q. What are some of the concerns you are aware of, financially, in Colchester County?
A: Whalen said it’s a bit “premature” to answer that question as she is now in the process of meeting people to hear their concerns.
“I want to have an ongoing discussion. I’ll be back and opening a dialogue between myself and the business community.”
Q: When the public has a concern, does it do any good to voice opinions?
A: “Make your opinions known because I believe it can make a difference,” Whalen said, pointing to the public’s outcry against proposed changes and cost increases to people making use of ferment-on-pemise products in wine-based businesses.
“People made us aware they didn’t like it (and) I’ve made that very clear … we’re not going to do that. I’ve heard from people, both consumers and business owners, who really felt that would harm the business.”
Q: How close is Nova Scotia to going into a recession?
A: “We are not in a recession right now. 2012 was a bad year. We didn’t indicate any growth. I’m more optimistic this fiscal year ... we’re estimating two per cent growth … but our next year coming is still going to be a difficult year.”
Q. How much is Nova Scotia in debt?
A: “About $14 billion. It has risen by a billion and a half in the last four years.”
Q: How does Nova Scotia get back on track?
A: One way, said Whalen, is to increase immigration by making “sure we are ready to accept people … if we can get people here, we want them to stay. We’re really concerned about the loss of population; not just young people, many other working age people leaving our province.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the federal budget released last week?
A: “There weren’t any new initiatives that were going to impact us in this province (and) there’s sad news in terms of the labour market agreement and the federal government’s determination to replace … money they are giving us provincially with their own plan and it’s going to be harmful to Nova Scotia communities and people that are vulnerable,” she said. The government “will determine our most important sectors and they may not be the jobs we have here in Nova Scotia.”