I spend a lot of time looking at economic development strategies and as far as it goes, the new economic strategy for the Halifax Regional Municipality looks like a keeper. It was quarterbacked by the Greater Halifax Partnership’s Chief Economist Fred Morley and reads a bit like a manifesto for the whole region. It’s talks about creative economies, and building a ‘gung ho’ business climate and it is has some aggressive targets (no Morley strategy would be without targets). It also warns against complacency and not keeping economic development as a top priority.
But the most interesting part of the strategy was a section called “Convert Rivalries Into Partnerships”. Old rivalries between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ Nova Scotia. Between ‘government’ and ‘business’. Between Halifax and other Atlantic Canadian cities.
This is the new thinking, folks. A few key people (like Morley) are starting to figure out that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. If communities and regions keep fighting over crumbs nobody will get the pie. This is not just hyperbole. What is good for HRM can be good for rural communities in Nova Scotia. And the same holds for New Brunswick. But if we can’t even talk about it, we will never figure it out? We need to start thinking this way and fast. The Port of Halifax can benefit Moncton and, yes, even Saint John. The Moncton airport can benefit, yes, even Fredericton. UNB in Fredericton can be beneficial to, yes, Moncton. And so on. Instead of dividing up a shrinking pie into an infinitesimal number of parts just to satisfy everyone, we should be more strategic about where and how we invest government dollars and we do that by getting every one on the same page. Or, as Morley would say:
Convert Rivalries Into Partnerships
It’s too bad our newspaper editors are about 100 years behind in this thinking.