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Friday, January 18, 2008

Einstein... dare we speculate?


"I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts." Albert Einstein

I have recently read a spectacular and very readable biography titled Einstein... His Life and Universe* written by Walter Isaacson. This writer has done us a huge favor, in that he has made Einstein, if not his theories, more understandable. He gained the rights to Einstein's personal papers that were sealed upon his death for fifty years... he is the first writer to have access... he then had them translated from the original German to English. With this new information, he is able to give us a human perspective on the man, his family and how he felt about many things. There are many, very human surprises!


I especially like the quote above, elsewhere attributed to Einstein, because it encourages us to forget about Nova Scotia's recent past (several hundred years), and look to a future based on the potential of the land and how the people might be able to challenge the world... yes, the world! When one looks at the geographic location, time zone, and resources (human and otherwise), one can speculate expansively on what 'should be' in the next hundred years. Once speculation (which seems to me can be a positive thing) is an option, instead of the persistent negative
, perhaps we can make our legacy more exciting and positive.

I like to think about Nova Scotia with daring speculation. I have long dreamed of this province being a duty free port on the order of Hong Kong (HK). Whilst HK is on the PacRim, Nova Scotia is on the AltRim, and has tremendous logistical advantages over US ports on the Eastern Seaboard. For example:

  • unlimited space for growth over the next century, whereas the Eastern US ports are locked into current space
  • our ports are up to 36 hours closer to Europe than the US eastern and Quebec ports
  • disbursement from Nova Scotia over rail or road can avoid much of the congestion of the major port cities like Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Charleston
  • NS is away from major terrorist targets like population centers, nuclear power plants, large oil refineries, large military bases... allowing uninterrupted transport in times of attack
  • the Atlantic time zone allows a better business window with Europe than does the Eastern zone
  • global warming will bring moderating temperatures and weather compared to the expected more intense southern storms
Clearly, there are competitive challenges to these examples of why we should invest in changing the way that we think about Nova Scotia. But it is not Nova Scotians that should be defeating, out of hand, ideas like this. A strategic plan born of "daring speculation" and the development of a capacity to implement such a plan is critical to thinking about where we will be in 2050 or 2100. It was in the late 1940's that Ottawa dreamed of the St. Lawrence Seaway that allowed Ontario to prosper, sixty years later, it is time to dream of our future in Nova Scotia.

So what thinking could we do to prepare for the future. And what actions can we take. Among other things, we could elect provincial leaders who will strategically, persistently, aggressively bang down the status quo, and remake Nova Scotia into what it is potentially capable of becoming. Instead of sitting away from the job as out legislators do, perhaps they could be thinking and acting on ideas that could be 'roughed in' to taking action, and not with incremental fluidity... we need bold, assured steps forward like these below, or others like we all seem to have, but don't hold our leaders to:

  • implement a permanent business tax holiday for all registered businesses under $10million in revenue similar to what was done in Ireland 30 years ago
  • significantly reduce the income tax on Nova Scotians making less than $20,000
  • restructure and lengthen the provincial debt... to loosen dollars to invest in infrastructure, including the human kind
  • dramatically cut the size of the bureaucracy, including the number of members of legislature
  • place a hold, on all expenses intended to promote tourism, and other "soft return" investments
  • facilitate private investment in wind, tidal and other alternative power opportunities, as well as conservation techniques; establish a power link to the US grid to enable tidal and wind farm development; add power cable from Labrador to gain new less costly clean power
  • institute a 100 km speed limit on all 100 series highways, and enforce it and all speed limits to save on fuel
  • invest heavily in transportation that will facilitate the two container ports' success (Halifax and the Strait)
  • encourage immigration to the HRM from the NS rural areas through better education and housing programs centered in HRM... infrastructure dollars spent outside the core are not strategic and are soft by definition. Warmly welcome immigrants from other world countries, and help them stay
  • close four of the existing universities (not just consolidate administration) over the next ten years; expand the community college programs; demand teaching and student excellence at the K thru 12 levels, as well as at the university levels; demand multi-language grammar and writing skills at all levels, as well as math and sciences for university entrance and > 2.2 GPA for graduation. No tuition for the students from Nova Scotia in core technology, science and math courses
  • implement a Provincial Youth Crime Law in all jurisdictions to enable peace officers and teachers to regain control of the schools, since it will take longer for the parents to learn parenting and it is an immediate need. Hold parents responsible for their off-spring's actions.
  • join with New Brunswick, and PEI (and NFLD if it would join) to make a voting block in parliament so that we can influence more of what is happening in Ottawa
  • ban tobacco smoking and other activities that contribute to un-controlled health expense similar to Singapore. When we say it can't be done, try... because it can!
  • 'aggressively' implement new recommendations of Nova Scotia's health care consultant's report; especially expand the Dalhousie Medical, Dental and Nursing Schools; expand community college health care related courses like medical technology and nurses aid.
This posting is intended to make us think, but we need to 'do'. I am beginning to think that as a society based in the Bluenoser traditions, we can not make it. I also believe that it will take a dramatic stroke to get things going. A Nova Scotia Come From Away Association may be that stroke, and with the comments to me by email supporting such a gambit, we are getting closer to calling the inaugural meeting. I suspect that CFA's as a change ingredient, if working together with Bluenosers would be a potent combination.

I hope this makes us think and act, while remembering that SUCCESS NOURISHES HOPE

*EINSTEIN His Life and Universe; Isaacson, Walter;ISBN-13:978-0-7432-6473-0

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!