STELLARTON – The provincial government will be looking for ways to cut the red tape when it comes helping companies do business.
Trenton Mayor Glen MacKinnon speak with Nova Scotia Finance Minister Diane Whalen following a Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Friday in Stellarton. Sueann Musick – The News
Nova Scotia Finance Minister Diane Whalen told participants at a Pictou County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday that small changes to legislation could make a big difference in business in the province.
“How can we streamline business,” she asked. Red tape reduction comes up a lot and it's the start of things when you take your eye off the ball, it starts creeping up again and any gains we have made are lost.”
She said since making rounds in the province on a pre-budget tour she has learned from business people how simple changes can be made that make a big difference.
“I heard in the last couple of weeks some interesting examples of what we are talking about. For a transport company we met in the valley this week, they had two suggestions on transport rules,” she said. “They have to do with being able to use bigger tires, which we make here in Nova Scotia but are not allowed to use, rather than two smaller tires on the same axles, they would save something like $600,000 a year on their fleet of trucks and there would be savings in fuel because it is more fuel efficient.”
She said the company owners also had suggestions on fuel that would improve their fuel efficiency that is not allow in the province. These two changes would save this company up to $2 million.
“But because of regulations they are not allowed to do that. Why are these rules in place? The large tire issue on the axle is allowed all over North America but not in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick,” Whalen said. “When they said that, you know you are out of step. We obviously haven’t kept up.”
However, she also pointed out that in order to make these changes in red tape reduction work, all the provinces need to work together.
“If we are going to make the change, we had better get New Brunswick to make the change too,” she said. “When you talking trucking, you have vehicles all over the United States and across Canada so we need to start working a lot more on harmonization.”
She said it’s important that industry bring their suggestions to government and tell them what rules are standing in their way, taking time and effort away from business.
“We think if we get rid of some of those roadblocks, it will give you time to grow your business and great new opportunities. It will be a win-win.
Whalen said demographics is one of the province’s biggest challenges because young people are leaving Nova Scotia to work elsewhere. After speaking with high school students in Cape Breton, she said they weren’t thinking of entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia.
“I see it as a way for us to be self-reliant and successful,” she said, “We can help with students by getting them education in entrepreneurship, exposing them to what it is about and talking about the successful entrepreneurs we have in our own communities.”
She said being an entrepreneur can have its challenges, but it also its benefits.
“It is a wonderful thing to be self-directed and know you are in charge of where you take it,” Whalen said. “There are a lot of pluses to being an entrepreneur but there are a lot of stresses as well, but we are hoping we can get young people to think about it more.”
Whalen said she also addressed immigration with the students and some expressed concern that immigrants take away job opportunities from Nova Scotians.
“All the facts are that immigrants add opportunity,” she said. “If they move to our communities, they create a demand for housing and cars and everything else you need to set up your life. They are supporting local business.”
She said the workforce is shrinking and temporary foreign workers are being brought in. She said both government and business need to open their doors to young people who want to stay in this province and work.
“The young people are so frustrated, just wanting to stay, but they are told they need work experience, so we are pushing them out. When they go to Alberta or Ontario, nobody asks for that.”
The Liberal government platform specifically addressed this concern by stating it will help business with the cost of hiring that new grad. She said the government heard from business operators that the first year costs more when hiring new employees and government will unveil a program in the near future about this initiative.
Lastly, she said, the government also knows that Nova Scotia’s high tax rate makes it difficult to do business and this is something that is going to be addressed in time. However, she cautioned, that since the province is currently in a deficit situation, it needs all the revenue it can get right now.
“We need all the revenue we are getting to provide services,” she said, “but we will look at taxes to make sure they are fair. The best way to improve the economy in the province is to grow jobs in the province.”