Tidal Turbine

June 2015: Sustainable Natural Resource Development

With the right vision and an inclusive approach we believe our natural resources can build a rural economy that is both sustainable and prosperous.

Opportunities for Natural Resource Development in Nova Scotia (PDF)
OneNS Mining & Extraction Report (PDF)

In Nova Scotia, natural resource industries account for 6 percent of our GDP, employ over 13,000 individuals, and account for $19 billion worth of projects planned or underway.

There are few of us who have yet to grasp the serious nature of our economic circumstances. Without new hope, we run the risk of not being able to stay here; and if we do, we will likely not enjoy the same standard of living or the level of public services and support we have today.

Responsible development of our natural resources is an opportunity for economic growth and prosperity in Nova Scotia, particularly in our rural areas.

Having said that, the Ivany Commission heard from Nova Scotians with important concerns about the protection of our environment and of our communities. Nova Scotians want economic development to be socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sustainable. They want adequate regulation and oversight. They do not want to be left with contaminated land and water, depleted resources, and abandoned industrial sites. Prosperity must also be sustainable.

To escape this impasse, opinion leaders in different sectors will need to develop a more constructive dialogue on the twin necessities – economic growth and industrial expansion on the one hand, and responsible and effective environmental practices and risk management on the other. – The oneNS (Ivany) Commission Report

WindFarm_2446_LWagg800There are significant opportunities to bring high value products to markets around the world that want what Nova Scotia has the ingredients resources and people to sustainably produce and offer. If we can increase and harness research and development and the power of our education and training system we can take our place in today’s knowledge and innovation-intensive global economy.

In future, as in the past, the traditional rural industries – tourism, manufacturing, mining, fisheries, forestry and agriculture – will provide the essential foundations for Nova Scotia’s rural economy. The basic viability of many of our rural communities hinges on whether these sectors can create more and better jobs and generate more wealth. – The oneNS (Ivany) Commission Report

We believe there are ways to find a balance between environmental responsibility and economic prosperity. The Globe and Mail, for example, writes:

When oil was discovered in the Norwegian continental shelf in 1969, Norway was very aware of the finite nature of petroleum, and didn’t waste any time legislating policies to manage the new-found resource in a way that would give Norwegians long-term wealth, benefit their entire society and make them competitive beyond just a commodities exporter.

“Norway got the basics right quite early on,” says John Calvert, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University. “They understood what this was about and they put in place public policy that they have benefited so much from.”

While there’s no question that Norway has done well from its oil and gas, unlike many resource-based nations, Norway has invested its petro dollars in such a way as to create and sustain other industries where it is also globally competitive. The second largest export of Norway is supplies for the petroleum industry, points out Ole Anders Lindseth, the director general of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in Norway.

“So the oil and gas activities have rendered more than just revenue for the benefit of the future generations, but has also rendered employment, workplaces and highly skilled industries,” Mr. Lindseth says.

Nova Scotia’s Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA) was established in 2007 and amended in 2012. This legislation and its amendments received unanimous approval by all parties in the Nova Scotia Legislature in both years. It aims to put our province on the path to becoming a world leader in environmental protection through 25 goals.

A progress report released in 2014, shows Nova Scotia is on track to achieve 40-50 percent renewable energy by 2020 – primarily as a result of the Maritime Link and wind power. Development of new technologies like tidal and hydroelectric power, are contributing.  Business operators increasingly understand that failure to protect the environment or work collaboratively with communities is detrimental to their organization and their plans. Rigorous, sustainable certification programs are being developed by the fishing, forestry and agriculture industries.

There is no doubt that these issues are important. There is also no doubt that they are difficult.

Quality of life and the protection of our home are quite simply a part of who we are. These values can also be part of the way forward, while we secure our future through a stronger economy if leaders, communities, environmental groups, researchers, academics and Nova Scotians engage in effective and inclusive dialogue to find solutions that work for us.

The One Nova Scotia Report on Building our Economy challenged Nova Scotia to develop an economic development plan – underpinned by the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act – that reconciles economic growth and industrial expansion with responsible environmental practices and resource management.  It recommended that this plan include a consistent, well-enforced and efficient regulatory framework to measure the efficiency, cost effectiveness, timeliness, fairness and transparency of developments, as well as widely accepted certification standards to ensure sustainable resource use.

  • How can Nova Scotia bridge the gap between sound resource and environmental management and the ability to realize the much needed economic potential of our assets? 
  • What needs to be done to ensure that economic development of our natural resources is socially, economically, culturally and environmentally sustainable?
  • How can we build trust and find common ground among developers, communities and residents?
  • What role can innovation and increased productivity play in revitalizing our natural resources sector and reviving our rural economy and communities?


This month we will focus on these and other related questions.


GOAL 15   Fisheries and Agriculture Exports
The value of exports from the fisheries (including aquaculture) and the agricultural sectors will each have doubled on a sustainable basis. (The  report prepared for the Commission by APEC identified current fsheries and seafood exports valued at $860 million and agricultural exports at $240 million). 

GOAL 16   Domestic Markets for Agricultural Products
The value of agricultural products produced for, and consumed within, the Nova Scotia domestic market will have doubled. The current value is approximately $230 million.


Game Changers

Game Changer 4: Renewing Rural IndustriesPort_Mouton_0540_SRobb800

In future, as in the past, the traditional rural industries – tourism, manufacturing, mining, fisheries, forestry and agriculture – will provide the essential foundations for Nova Scotia’s rural economy. The basic viability of many of our rural communities hinges on whether these sectors can create more and better jobs and generate more wealth.  Some 43% of Nova Scotians live in rural regions and they are in many ways an underutilized human resource. Government, industry and community leaders need to come together to declare, in the most unequivocal terms, that our traditional rural sectors are essential foundations for the new Nova Scotia economy, now and in the future, while acknowledging that all of these sectors need to be more productive, more innovative and more competitive.

For many years the highest public policy priority for these sectors has been simply to maintain jobs in rural communities. But today we find that many business operators are insufficiently profitable to support the investments in product quality, plant productivity, worker training, and market expansion that are needed to maintain and grow market share. In some sectors it is increasingly difficult to find local workers to take the low-wage and seasonal jobs many employers offer. As a result, young people are leaving rural communities, other countries are out-competing us in the marketplace, and the province is not realizing the full value of our asset base. These business models need to be revised if the province and our rural communities are to escape the current pattern of weak economic growth and population decline.

On the “upside”, globalization is creating significant opportunities if we can bring higher value products to expanding markets. We still have the crucial ingredients: an attractive environment, valuable natural resources and advanced capacities to manage them sustainably. We also have a highly developed education and training system and the R&D capacities with which to transform our traditional rural industries into knowledge driven, innovation-intensive sectors.

An immediate opportunity to improve the performance of a critically important rural economic sector is the recent report of the Maritime Lobster Panel, a study initiated by the three Maritime Provinces in the spring of 2013 in response to growing industry conflict over low lobster prices.

This report provides an in-depth look at the single most important sector within the Atlantic fishery, and identifies three critical problem areas:

  • Industry relationships – the mutually destructive competition and weak cooperation among harvester groups and between the harvesting, processing and marketing sectors;
  • Industry operations – the disorganization and poor product quality resulting from the ways harvesters, buyers, shippers and processors currently conduct their activities; and,
  • Industry structure – “how the industry is set up and where the gaps exist that are contributing to value loss”.

The report makes 33 recommendations that together comprise a “Value Recovery Strategy” aimed at capturing and fairly distributing the wealth that lobster can and should generate in the global marketplace.

The Commission believes that this strategy deserves the support of industry, government and the wider community not just as an antidote to current problems in the lobster fishery, but as a model to be adapted to other primary production sectors that hold potential to generate greater wealth if they can become better structured and more competitive.

Game Changer 5: Shared Commitment to Sustainable Development and Regulatory Excellence

As a provincial community, Nova Scotia appears at times to be seriously ambivalent, if not divided, on the benefits and risks associated with economic development. On the one hand, most commentators agree that our towns, cities and rural regions are in serious need of new investment, improved infrastructure and population growth. On the other, almost all new investment opportunities face significant criticism and at times active opposition from citizens concerned about negative impacts on neighbouring communities, on existing businesses and on the environment.

There appear to be two key areas of concern: regulatory issues and attitudes.

With regard to the former, critics of economic development projects can point to serious regulatory failures and poor business practices to justify their concerns about future risks. From the Westray mine disaster to the recent tragedy at Lac Mégantic, there clearly have been situations where the rules were lacking or were inadequately enforced. Nova Scotians can also point to examples where, after considerable wealth was extracted, communities have been left with contaminated land and water, depleted resources, and abandoned industrial sites. Citizens are justified in calling for more responsible behaviour by resource users and more effective resource and environmental management by governments.

In the area of attitudes, participants in debates on economic development issues can sometimes express narrow views. Business operators and people who need jobs can seem cavalier about environmental risks and impacts on neighbouring communities. By the same token, urban dwellers with stable service sector jobs can sound indifferent to the need for more and better employment in rural resource industries.  To escape this impasse, opinion leaders in different sectors will need to develop a more constructive dialogue on the twin necessities – economic growth and industrial expansion on the one hand, and responsible and effective environmental practices and risk management on the other.

There are good reasons to improve and expedite the regulatory processes for businesses and industrial activities. A consistent, well-enforced and efficient regulatory framework is essential if we are to bridge the gap between sound resource and environmental management and the ability to realize the economic potential of our assets. Currently there is a lack of trust in the regulatory and enforcement system by both those who have to abide by it to create a business or start a new resource use activity, and those who expect that system to protect both citizens and the environment to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability.

On the positive side, today’s progressive business operators often go beyond the regulatory system to improve their practices, particularly where there are market incentives for such improvements. Environmental certification programs are being actively developed by the fishing, forestry and agriculture industries. The growing consumer demand, on both the local and global levels, for products that are certified as responsibly and sustainably produced represents a significant opportunity to add value in Nova Scotia’s primary production industries.

Preview_A0190The Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA) provides a framework for innovation, particularly for renewable energy and energy efficiency. With goals of 40% renewable energy by 2025, we are enabling development of new technologies, exploration of tidal and hydroelectric power, and innovation at the municipal level with leading edge composting and solid waste management systems, community feed-in tariffs (COMFITS) and the Solar City program in Halifax. Strategic investments in energy efficiency through demand side management initiatives are lowering operating costs for residents as well as businesses and public institutions. Many of these innovations have set us apart from other provinces in Canada and are part of what makes it exciting to be in Nova Scotia.

The development of the collaborative development plan that the Commission has recommended should be guided by broad stakeholder commitment to the following considerations:

  • Continuing commitment to the objectives and targets of the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act;
  • Consistent use of the most effective, transparent and inclusive public engagement processes and methods to support decision-making on expansion of resource industries and management of renewable and non-renewable resources;
  • Excellence in regulatory systems and procedures, measured in terms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, timeliness, fairness and transparency;
  • Adoption of the most effective and widely accepted certification standards for sustainable resource use, conservation and responsible harvesting practices;
  • Recognition of the rights of local communities to receive direct benefits from ongoing resource extraction activities, and to be protected from the burden of post-extraction environmental remediation costs and consequences.


Learn More

Nova Scotia’s Proposed Greener Economy Strategy
The first five-year public review of EGSPA was conducted by the Round Table on Environment and Sustainable Prosperity (Round Table) in 2012. The focus of the review was to further strengthen the links between the environment and the economy. One of the recommendations the Round Table submitted to the Minister of Environment on March 30, 2012 was around the development of a Green Economy Strategy. After review and consideration, the following goal was added to EGSPA: “the Province develops a strategy by 2014 to advance the growth of the green economy, and implements the strategy accordingly.” This new goal aims to harmonize economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. The proposed Green Economy Strategy follows a strategic approach to addressing future opportunities in the green economy.

Nova Scotia’s 2020 Vision
This commitment was adopted in the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, proclaimed in June 2007. The act sets out 25 far-reaching goals for the province, ranging from reduced air emissions and waste, to new energy standards for buildings and increased protection of our land and water.

The Path We Share: A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia 2011-2020
As in the rest of our economy, it is time to be innovative, to think differently about our most traditional sectors, our resource industries. Our decisions today can affect generations of Nova Scotians, and so the responsibility is great.

A New Regulatory Framework for Low-Impact/High Value Aquaculture in Nova Scotia
A number of participants in our process urged us to conclude that marine based fin fish facilities and more particularly, salmon farms cannot be sustainably operated, and to recommend that a permanent moratorium be imposed on this kind of aquaculture. Our conclusion, after careful consideration of the state of the science and opportunities to reduce impacts through effective regulations, is that the regulatory framework should not be prohibitory at a provincial scale.

Instead, we recommend fundamental changes to the regulation of aquaculture, which we conclude can address the serious and legitimate concerns raised without foreclosing the opportunity associated with this sector of the industry.

The New Climate Economy, Global Commission on the Economy and Climate
Countries at all income levels have the opportunity to build lasting economic growth and at the same time reduce the immense risk of climate change. But action is needed now. The Global Commission, advised by some of the world’s leading economists, sets out a ten point Global Action Plan for governments and businesses to secure better growth in a low-carbon economy.

International Institute for Sustainable Development
Promotes human development and environmental sustainability through innovative research, communication and partnerships.

Conversations for Responsible Economic Development
A non-profit, non-partisan collection of business owners, academics, landowners and residents of British Columbia who support responsible economic development. Founded in 2013 and led by a team of volunteer advisors from a diverse range of sectors.

Defining the Green Economy: Labour Market Research Study Skill and labour trends in the environmental profession. (Environmental Careers Association.

Building Canada’s Green Economy: The Municipal Role (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) Three basic principles guide the approach: act locally; make value for money a top priority; and work with the market where the market can work.

Under right conditions resource exploration, protecting Bras d’Or can co-exist, lake watchers say
“It would seem to me that, conducted under the right conditions, potash is pretty important, it’s a fertilizer product, it’s done very well for Sussex, New Brunswick, and the economy there,” Bates said. “I would have to think that they could conduct the exploration there in a responsible way, properly monitored.” (Cape Breton Post)

Fishing for Innovation: Aquaculture is a big global industry in need of technological solutions. One duo hopes private investment will provide the spark.
“A new global investment fund called Aqua-Spark aims to change how seafood is farmed. Based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, it’s the first fund to invest solely in ventures that aim to protect both human health and the environment in the $135 billion aquaculture industry, which includes the farming of salmon, tilapia, shrimp, oysters, and other seafood, as well as aquatic plants like kelp. Aquaculture currently produces about half the seafood consumed worldwide, says Aqua-Spark cofounder Mike ­Velings, who officially launched the fund in December with his wife, Amy Novogratz. The industry will have to expand by 150 percent in the next 25 years to meet growing global demand, Velings says. Wild fish can’t satisfy that need alone: 85 percent of the world’s oceans are already being fished to their limits or beyond, according to the World Wildlife Fund.” (MIT Technology Review)