STRAIT AREA: Premier Iain Rankin says he thinks strategic investments are required to help the economy heal from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on his agenda based on three key challenges facing Nova Scotia; serving the environment, meeting a robust economic recovery and promoting equity and inclusivity across the province, Rankin hosted a virtual conversation with the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce on April 9.
“It’s a way we can reach out to the business community to reach those working in small businesses across the province in a limited way, because of restrictions,” Rankin told The Reporter following the event. “I’ve been getting to see every region I can, as much as possible, but these virtual sessions are very helpful to tell them about what’s in the budget and to talk about regional considerations of concern.”
During his opening remarks, Rankin underlined several areas of the Liberal’s 2021-22 fiscal plan highlighting; increased funding to long-term care, the creation of the mental health and addictions services department, improvements to income assistance, funding to post-secondary institutions, and the creation of the recently formed economic growth council.
“I think this is a moment where rural communities can shine,” he said. “We’ve seen all 18 of our counties experience a population growth, and we need to try to figure out how government is best able to support that momentum.”
Rankin also used his conversation to indicate the province would be announcing they were opening their vaccine rollout to resident’s aged 65-plus.
He indicated he wants to be a strong partner, the same way the previous premier was.
“I see growth areas; how do we support tourism if there are opportunities when the borders open up, I have no problem in investing in marketing strategies in how we attract people to Cape Breton,” he told the online session. “When businesses are impacted by restrictions we impose, I think government should respond and help them.”
The premier tabled a handful of questions from the gallery including Vivek Saxena, principal of the NSCC Strait Area Campus and Richmond Warden Amanda Mombourquette.
Mombourquette indicated she was pleased to see strong focus on environment and climate action, but the reality for rural municipalities are they continue to face significant financial burdens while trying to grow their tax base and caring for their most vulnerable citizens.
Asking for advice on innovative solutions to best achieve these goals, she provided examples in supporting projects that protect roads from coastal erosion, or investing in projects such as affordable housing.
“Those are things that I think sometimes government don’t pay enough attention to,” Rankin said. “Because they’re not as shiny.”
Addressing the upgrades to the Port Hastings Rotary, the chamber wants to ensure the multi-million dollar development focuses on continuous traffic flow, as there have been traffic issues on the Cape Breton side since the rotary was built.
“Our concern would be that a redeveloped rotary will not adequately address the issue,” they said. “That’s something we will be concerned with, the continuous movement of traffic.”
Rankin advised he would take the chamber’s concerns in writing to the deputy of transportation and make sure he takes them into consideration before any work is started.
In a phone interview, when asked by The Reporter about what the province is going to do to encourage and contribute to the population, and therefore overall economic growth in the Strait area, the premier suggested they are in a position to ensure they capitalize on the growth that’s already occurring organically.
“We are a safe destination that more and more people are attracted to; every region is now growing,” Rankin said. “And what we can do as government is make sure we provide the infrastructure, things like high speed internet and active transportation networks, so that they have the high quality of life across the province.”