Nova Scotia Looks Southward to Boost Troubled Economy

NOVA Scotia Premier John Savage, here last weekend for a special city Christmas event, says his province must continue to push trade and tourism opportunities with New England.

With United States congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Premier Savage says his province must expand exporting of fishery, agriculture, and lumber products to New England states and those along the Eastern Seaboard.

``Whether we like it or not, things have changed. And we cannot remain retiring and a quaint little place for tourism,'' Savage says.

Nearby New England is a major market for Nova Scotia. Many Nova Scotians have relatives in the region, Savage says. In fact, for years, jobless Nova Scotians have migrated south to what was once called ``the Boston states.'' Tourism's potential

Now, Nova Scotians want New Englanders to ``migrate'' north, and province officials are embarking on a new tourism initiative. Minister of Tourism and Culture Ross Bragg says the province's $800 million tourism industry has the potential to double in size over the next five to six years.

The low Canadian dollar gives Nova Scotia another competitive advantage in its quest for New England and other American tourists, he adds.

Nova Scotia needs as much help as it can get. This small northern Canadian province of 900,000 people has a 14 percent unemployment rate and a depressed fishing industry.

Over the past three years, the province's groundfish industry has seen a ``catastrophic decline,'' due to depleted fish stocks, Savage says. Strict fishing quotas have put 30,000 people out of work in Newfoundland alone. And last September, after the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on groundfishing, 7,000 jobs were lost in Nova Scotia, Savage says. In addition, 90 percent of the province's fish plants are now closed. New businesses

To offset the lost jobs, Nova Scotian officials are working with communities to encourage new small-business start-ups. Job training and marketing assistance will be provided on a limited budget, Mr. Bragg says. Possible fields for new businesses could include aquaculture, ecotourism, and the province's growing crafts industry, province officials say.

``What we want to do is create a new group of entrepreneurs that start their own small businesses,'' Bragg says. ``And in some cases, it's as simple as somebody that is going to fix motors in their backyard. And in other cases, it's somebody that has started a small pewter business that now markets internationally.''

Even so, the Boston market has always been important to Nova Scotia. And Nova Scotians regard the city with more than an economic appreciation. Each year, the Canadian province donates a Christmas tree in appreciation for Boston's help after a devastating explosion in the Nova Scotian capital of Halifax on Dec. 6, 1917.

About 2,000 people were killed and several wounded when two munitions ships collided in the city's harbor. Due to a severe snow storm the next day, Canadian relief efforts were delayed and a train from Boston was the first to arrive with help.

Last weekend, thousands of Bostonians attended the city's annual Christmas tree lighting, accompanied by Nova Scotia's premier and kilt-clad members of the 78th Highland Regiment of Halifax.

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