As we get set to welcome a new year with new opportunities I can’t help but look back on Nova Scotia in 2016 and reflect on the progress we’ve made in this great province.
Our population hit an all-time high after years of decline.
We filled our recently expanded immigration nominee program, and saw a record-setting surge in the number of immigrants overall. This population increase is important to our overall strategic plan to grow the economy. We need a larger number of citizens choosing to call Nova Scotia home to move our province forward. They will create opportunities to expand businesses and create jobs.
Government chose to make investments in key sectors and, with the hard work of industry experts, our investments are paying off.
Our seafood industry, which includes some of the world’s best seafood companies, is already on the verge of meeting the One NS Report goal of doubling exports within a decade as we work to meet the increasing world wide demand for our top-quality seafood.
Aquaculture is a contributor to those sales, and is poised for significant growth after government worked with the industry on new regulations and made an investment in research to help create more jobs.
Our agriculture exports are making strides and are on track to meet the One NS Report target of $480 million by 2024.
With the potential in our agricultural sector, this year government launched a $12-million strategy to help the province’s wine industry. This investment will help double our province’s grape production by 2020. That means more grapes on the vines and ultimately that will mean more jobs and a more prosperous province.
The growth of craft breweries across the province continued in 2016 and Nova Scotia now has more craft breweries per capita than any other province in Canada. Government changes to markup costs that take effect in April will ensure craft brewers are treated the same as their counterparts in the farm wine and craft distillery sectors and should allow for significant growth in the sector.
Nova Scotia is becoming a destination for those looking for a local taste whether in food, wine, craft beer, distilleries or ciders.
This year also saw our province and the federal government partner to invest almost $20 million in the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth. The centre will be a home for research and development, start-up companies and marine-based businesses that support the ocean-technology sector as we work to build on the excellence of our ocean-technology community.
And, with incubators like Volta in Halifax where technology entrepreneurs can connect and support each other as they try to turn ideas into businesses, Nova Scotia is already gaining a reputation as a tech-savvy jurisdiction.
Since 2013 Volta has been home to over 40 tech companies. Most are still going strong, raising more than $32 million in equity financing collectively and employing over 200 people.
This is the workplace of the next generation and our government wants to support our current and future entrepreneurs. The Nova Scotia First Fund has been recapitalized to be a source of venture capital for startups, and a new private-sector-led venture capital fund is also in development.
Government is also supporting our daughters and sons who want to make Nova Scotia their home as they enter the workforce.
There are programs that help them along the way such as Graduate to Opportunity, a program where government supports businesses that hire recent graduates by covering a portion of their salaries. A modernized apprenticeship system is more effectively matching young people with employers. These and other programs help thousands of young Nova Scotians stay in our province each year.
These kinds of investments and initiatives support the growth of innovation and technology in our economy, while also making the most of our traditional economic strengths. And our world-class universities and the Nova Scotia Community College means there will be no shortage of innovative ideas in the future.
The formula for our future success is not complicated.
We must continue to grow our population with a focus on employing our youth so they can stay here in Nova Scotia.
We must continue to make strategic investments with a focus on innovation, using all of our resources.
We must continue to push into global markets and continue to prove our companies can compete anywhere.
And, finally, we must continue to control our spending in the public sector so we can create the space for further investments in health care, education, senior care and supporting our most vulnerable citizens.
In doing so government knows it must be fair to the hard-working public servants who deliver programs and services while ensuring costs are affordable to taxpayers.
As I look back on 2016 I am proud of you, the people of this province, for your dedication to making Nova Scotia the best it can be.
Nova Scotia is on the move and I look forward to working with all of you to see how far we can take this great province.
May you have a happy and safe 2017.