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Atlantic Canada: A Safe Port in an Economic Storm

Strategic partnerships and prudent planning have put Canada's Atlantic provinces in a strong position to withstand the global recession.

Alec Bruce (June/July 09)
(page 2 of 2)
The city of Halifax, Nova Scotia The city of Halifax, Nova Scotia
Rebooting for Future Prosperity
In recent years, all governments in the Atlantic provinces have been building what they call "capacity": in New Brunswick, the clarion is "self-sufficiency"; in Prince Edward Island, it's "bioscience"; in Newfoundland and Labrador, it's "energy independence"; and in Nova Scotia, it's "building for growth." But whatever each calls it, it's the same language, and it sends the same message: Atlantic Canada is open for business - now more than ever. Every Atlantic province naturally presents its best face, but all are now beginning to understand that they are stronger together than apart.

Referring to the province's recent progress, despite the economic downturn, New Brunswick's Graham said in his 2009 State of the Province address, "Laying the cornerstones of self-sufficiency did more than provide the foundation for 20 years down the road. It gave us the base upon which to stand when the storm clouds began to gather last summer." Graham has also added another component to the mix: tax reform. According to APEC, the change is almost revolutionary: "A flat 10 percent personal tax rate and a reduction of the general corporate tax rate to 5 percent will be fully phased in by 2012. To pay for these tax decreases, [a] select committee advised an increase in the harmonized sales tax (HST), but the government is still considering its options."


Looking to Prince Edward Island, look no further than its youthful activist premier Robert Ghiz. Under his direction, the Island's aerospace industry has expanded its reach dramatically, as recorded international exports increased from about $38 million in 2006 to more than $100 million last year. Highly machined components from Prince Edward Island are being shipped to 29 different countries.

Indeed, most of the export growth in this sector last year occurred outside the main U.S. market. The value non-U.S.-bound shipments exploded from $6 million in 2006 to more than $48 million in 2007. Exports to the European Union grew from $1 million to $25 million, while shipments to Africa increased from $3 million to $12 million. And even despite the impact of the higher value of the Canadian dollar against its American counterpart, exports to the United States rose by 16 percent. The provincial government reports that the aerospace industry in Prince Edward Island maintains annual sales of about $275 million; it employs nearly 1,000 highly skilled workers.

For Nova Scotia, the future is all about building new opportunities for business investment and expansion from the ground up. In a recent newspaper editorial, MacDonald wrote: "My government's three-year, $1.9 billion infrastructure plan [is] called Building for Growth, [which] is one of the largest infrastructure programs in our province's history. In the short term, it will create and maintain about 20,000 jobs. In the longer term, the plan speaks to our vision of what Nova Scotia can and will be in the years to come." He promised investment in schools, information technology, green energy, and transportation projects, and said Nova Scotia had become the most connected jurisdiction in North America, with broadband Internet access available to all homes and businesses in the province.

Finally, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to weather the world's economic maelstrom with characteristic common sense and good humor. According to APEC, the province's offshore oil sector continues to progress, with Husky Energy planning to spend $800 million on the East Coast in 2009. Meanwhile housing boomed across the province last year, supported by optimism about future offshore developments and inward migration. "This reversal in migration trends has, at least temporarily, ended a continuous loss of population that began in 1993," says the APEC report. "Newfoundland and Labrador's population increased by an estimated 1,500 people over the last four quarters." 
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