“Young people will be able to find jobs, high-paying jobs here in Nova Scotia, so they no longer have to pick up and go to Ontario or Alberta.” Premier Dexter, quoted in the Chronicle Herald on November 8, 2012


This is a common sentiment in today’s Maritime narrative.  On one hand, it is understandable and even laudable. But on the other hand, I see it as a collective pipedream in Nova Scotia that is actually just an extension of the tired old “us versus them” mentality.

I find it troublesome when our leaders tell us how important it is for the young people of Nova Scotia to stay here or return to take these new opportunities. Ever wonder how it makes those of us feel who aren’t from here? Undervalued. Unappreciated. Unwanted.

And what’s crazy to me is that I am from Canada. I was born and raised in Alberta.  Until I moved to Nova Scotia, I never felt like I was anything other than a Canadian. When I think about the “Jobs Here” campaign and the attitude that Nova Scotia wants “its” young people back, I wonder how that makes temporary foreign workers feel.  Those are the people on work permits tied (beholden) to a specific employer, who pay taxes here and pay into EI and CPP they will likely never collect on. They are the ones who are often perpetually separated from their loved ones.  If there is an avenue for them to obtain permanent residence, it can take years.

It’s such a cliché to say the world is getting smaller. There are many downsides to globalization but the opportunity to travel, explore the world and work abroad is not one of them. I have always been amazed and saddened at how permeable the borders are to foreign goods, and yet how difficult it is to move people across borders, especially from poorer countries (where many of those foreign goods come from). And despite much-touted free trade agreements and “globalization” rhetoric, it’s only getting harder. There’s now a concerted effort on the part of the federal government to attract immigrants from English-speaking, visa exempt countries. That’s all well and good, but try getting a work permit from the Canadian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City these days.

My parents have three “successful” children. Guess where we live: Nova Scotia, Chicago and Hawaii. For years, my folks kept asking when we were coming back to Alberta, after all, it seemed to them like everyone else was heading that way. They have now stopped asking and are happy when we make it out to visit once or twice a year.

So while it is a nice idea that “our” young people will no longer have to go to Ontario or Alberta (or Shanghai) to work, we should not count on all those ex-Maritimers and expats to return in droves. The world is too small, too interesting, too varied for that to happen on a massive scale. Instead, expect new graduates (both Canadians and International students) to take many of the entry-level positions, and, if things pan out, stay here.  Expect smart, skilled, hardworking people – no matter where they are from – to seize those opportunities. And expect those of us, who were not born in Nova Scotia but who have found opportunity here, to make a life here:  Buy houses, have kids, go to Nocturne and Howard Dill’s Pumpkin Farm and the Pop Explosion. Please don’t begrudge it.

Nova Scotia is the kind of place people want to live in. We should be proud of this and welcome (rather than resent) those who choose to live here no matter where they were born.

It’s high time we valued the talents and skills of people who are committed to this province regardless of where they come from.