Nova Scotia’s strengths celebrated, future questioned

A large crowd packed into Heritage Hall at the Canadian Museum of Immigration on Saturday to discuss Nova Scotia’s unique strengths, and how they can be used to ensure a bright future.

By Dan Malone

A large crowd packed into Heritage Hall at the Canadian Museum of Immigration on Saturday to discuss Nova Scotia’s unique strengths, and how they can be used to ensure a bright future.

The firing of a bow and arrow kicks off the Nova Scotia: Our Strengths, Our Future forum
The firing of a bow and arrow kicks off the Nova Scotia: Our Strengths, Our Future forum. (Dan Malone photo)

A common theme for many of the speakers was the idea of creating a narrative for the province. One of the first speakers, Rev. Russell Daye of St. Andrew’s United Church, talked about a “narrative of scarcity” and the need to break out of it.

After the crowd broke into groups to discuss their own experiences of Nova Scotia’s specific strengths, Chris Bryant, the managing director of government relations for HRM, took the stage. He asked for ways we can make our province better.

“Business as usual is not working very well in Nova Scotia,” Bryant said. “We’re not taking advantage of our opportunities, we’re not building on our strengths.  It seems to me that we desperately need to do the opposite.”

“We are regularly told that we are too small, too poor, too old, too sick, et cetera,” he continued.  “These are only problems if we consider them to be problems. We need to turn these things on their head.”

Carrying on the theme of narratives established by Daye, Bryant and playwright and former MP Wendy Lill, whose stage adaptation of Sheldon Currie’s novel The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum was recently translated into Japanese, told her own story of her arrival to Nova Scotia and how she ended up serving in Parliament, as well as her love for Currie’s story and what it meant to her.

“We tell stories that are universal, and we have a culture that’s universal,” she said.  “There’s a great staying power in our stories.”

Throughout the day, the consensus was that Nova Scotia has to remain true to its strengths and unique character, rather than trying to “be like Toronto” as one attendee put it, or being confined by what Daye called the “narrative of scarcity,” a sense that all that matters is having enough or not having enough.

“I think the greatest challenge we have, perhaps, is that we’ve lost our narrative,” said Danny Graham, chief negotiator of Aboriginal Affairs Nova Scotia. “What’s the arc of our storyline?  I think it needs to relate to the notion of unity.  What’s our future?  If we’re going to make a future for ourselves, it’s certainly not going to be by describing ourselves as being from Cape Breton, Pictou County, HRM, mainland Nova Scotia, it’s going to be being from Nova Scotia, having a sense of identity.”

Related audio
Chris Bryant speech 

Chris Bryant quotes George Costanza to explain his idea of Nova Scotia’s future