PORT HAWKESBURY: By fostering a strong relationship between the private sector and the province, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston believes Nova Scotia can be in a position to grow economically in the years ahead.
“We’re a province that can punch above its weight,” he told members of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce during a noontime visit on February 11. “We’re in the right place geographically, we have smart people, and we have strong communities.
“A lot of what government does is distribute wealth through programming, but you can’t distribute wealth unless you generate wealth. We need to have a healthy economy, and that’s why I have so much respect for what you’re doing.”
Houston was the featured guest at the Chamber of Commerce’s “Lunch and Learn,” held at the Maritime Inn Port Hawkesbury. Local business leaders were in attendance.
The central theme of Houston’s talk related to modernization.
“I’m driven by one thing, and that’s modernizing this province,” he said. “I want to make sure this is a province where people see themselves as having an opportunity to thrive and succeed. That starts with modernization.”
Modernizing the province’s environmental review process is a priority, he said, noting that business people have to know very clearly what’s allowed and not allowed. He also discussed health care and wondered if, in some cases, the acute care model is outdated.
“Why is it the only way we can access health care in this province is to walk through a door?” he said, adding that not all patients need to see health care staff in person.
“In other parts of the world, they figured out phone conferencing and FaceTime. You should be able to pick up a phone and instantaneously speak to someone who connects you to a doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist.”
He said he also sees population growth as something for which there’s a “huge opportunity.”
“Millennials want safe communities, walkable communities; they want communities that are self-sustained,” he said. “We have that from one end of this province to another. Population growth is very possible for our province, but we have to push forward with it.”
A key to fostering that sort of growth, he said, is smart government investment and spending. A local example was the proposed international airport in Inverness County.
“When you think of smart spending, you have to keep a watch on the airport situation,” he said. “If that discussion is to take place, if government is going to get its chequebook out, it has to be based on a very solid business case.”
Part of Houston’s discussion regarded the need to invest in infrastructure spending in an effort to promote economic growth.
“Across this province, we have a lot of tired infrastructure because we haven’t really kept pace with infrastructure spending,” he said.
When asked about his thoughts on the Strait of Canso Gateway Project, a Cape Breton Partnership endeavour to have the Port Hastings Rotary and surrounding area revitalized and revamped, he said the project has his attention.
“I’d put that in the bucket of infrastructure investments that are well thought out,” he said. “Our tourism opportunities are things I’m very excited about, so anything that feeds into that, I’m excited about.”