There has been much written about the state of things in Nova Scotia, and studies showing that things need to change now before it is too late for the Province. The topic has been on my mind for some time but reading the article this morning Rural Reckoning: Being young and looking for a future finally prompted me to write something my self.
The article is not ground breaking it’s a story we’ve heard over and over again, young people over and over again getting educated here and then having to leave to put that education to work. This article from a couple years ago Saying farewell to Nova Scotia for a reason has stuck with me, and this one looking at the Maritimes in general: How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region.
Luckily there are people who choose to to live here in Nova Scotia and come to make it work regardless if it is easy to do so or not. The Bluenosers by choice initiative showcases some of these stories. While I wasn’t born here in Nova Scotia I am from the Maritimes and have lived here most of my life. While I do love it really the one main thing that keeps me here is Family. Both my wife’s and my parents are both here and we both have siblings here. My kids are all in school and have made friends so to move them would be challenging, although each of them said they would move without much hesitation.
While we are fine here it is mainly because my wife is self employed and I have looked beyond the traditional employment options in the area and now work remotely with the distributed company Automattic. When I think of my kids and their future here I do get a little worried. While I do believe there will be more and more opportunities as technology advances and more companies begin to embrace the opportunity to have a remote workforce it still isn’t there for everyone by any means. Books like Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp and Scott Berkuns The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work both illustrate two companies who are great examples of how this can work.
My honest belief is that for this Province to be sustainable it is going to take more remote type work and local entrepreneurs to create businesses here. The downfall for remote work here is that because of the shrinking tax base there has to be a different reason for you to want to live here. It’s not attractive for new entrepreneurs or remote workers to specifically set out to move here. We are one of the highest taxed Provinces in Canada and the level of services we receive for it don’t match that of elsewhere.
Nova Scotia has long wait times for health care. Our roads and infrastructure are deteriorating. Recently I went for a drive out past my old family home while taking my daughter to work at a well known large retail store. It started out in this rural location but has since grown to many locations elsewhere. The drive out there was appalling and I don’t know how the business owner hasn’t lost their minds. Each road, no matter the direction you take, leading to their place of business, where they employ a number of people and must bring revenue to the local area, are reverting back to dirt. Apparently the roads were so bad they were dug up, but instead of repaving them, the laid gravel down instead. So now you are driving along and hit dirt/gravel roads all of a sudden.
On my drive out there I immediately thought of this article by Nova Scotia’s previous finance Minister. In it explains basically that we don’t have the population to support paying for all the roads we have paved over the years. So especially our rural roads are going to end up falling a part and go back to dirt. For major highways we are going to have to move to a toll and pay per use system in order to afford to have them.
Then there is our health care system. There are still many families in rural areas here where they don’t have a family doctor. Wait times are long for procedures and people end up going to emergency rooms for things that they could regularly see a family physician for. So with a system already strained it is causing Doctors who are here to leave. They can go elsewhere, likely make more money, with less stress.
With the high taxes and the services we do have going down hill it is going to be hard to attract people to want to move here. Those of us who do stay are going to have to pay a premium for living here. At some point even families like mine who does love it here and values being close to family are going to have to make the decision. Is the benefits of living here worth the cost? For now at least they are. But as my kids get even older and get to the point where they are going to start their own lives and careers it might not be here. Maybe we’ll want to get them settled into an area where I can see an easier road to success for them before they reach that point.
It’s my honest hope that this doesn’t happen. But if my kids grow up and feel the need to move away from their home Province, my main reason of being here for family won’t be as valid anymore.