“I believe it’s time we have a very frank and honest discussion about jobs in Nova Scotia.”
This was the preface given by provincial Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie before Tuesday’s town hall-styled meeting at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.
Baillie returned home to Truro as part of a provincial tour, fostering discussion about the economy and opening the floor to citizens to voice their concerns.
While he opened by saying he didn’t want to sound “too partisan,” he didn’t hold back on his perceived shortcomings of governments current and past.
“We cannot say no to everything and have a growing economy,” Baillie said, referring to the rejection of natural resource-based industries like mining, agriculture and fracking. “Every time we say ‘no,’ another Nova Scotian family moves away.”
Much of the talk early on centered on the Ivany Report – an economic report handed to the provincial government from a committee chaired by Ray Ivany, president of Acadia University. The government sat on the report for three months, Baillie said, before deciding to form another committee to review its recommendations.
“Nova Scotia has become the best at forming committees and having discussions and panels and reviews and kumbaya hugging sessions, but we never get ahead.”
After turning the discussion to the audience of 20 locals, topics changed to things like literacy and education.
“You’ve talked about investing money into resources,” said Jayne Hunter, of Literacy N.S. “But how about investing money into our biggest resource – our people?”
“If there’s a place where government should be investing money, it’s in the public education system,” Baillie replied before stating he would not be satisfied until Nova Scotia has a 100% literacy rate. Currently, 38% of the province is listed as low literate.
On the topic of health care, Baillie said the province currently spends $1 promoting health to every $14 spent treating health problems. To boost health while stimulating the economy, Baillie spoke of the importance of buying local.
“I guess that’s the progressive side to my progressive conservative,” he said.
Talk soon switched to the resistance to fracking and shale gas exploration, when one audience member said he’d been verbally attacked in the past for supporting the issue.
For that, Baillie had a simple answer.
“I’ll tell you something I don’t support is building a giant extension cord to Newfoundland so we can pay more for our electricity…while natural gas is costing four or five cents-per-kilowatt.”