In my early teens I went to St. Joseph’s Junior High in the Halifax’s North End. Walking up Russell St. to school early in the morning or heading home late I would often pass a shipyard worker with inevitable lunch can and a thermos. I went to school with lots of kids whose fathers worked at the yard and I got to know firsthand that the work was often unsteady and that good years were often followed by bad ones. This has changed somewhat in recent years with the acquisition of the yard by Irving. But with hoped for success in winning a portion of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy the yard could move to a level of stability and prosperity unheard of for generations.
The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy will see two of four major yards in Canada take on $35 billion in construction and maintenance work over the next 30 years. How Important to Nova Scotia is winning the $25 billion combat portion of this project? Nothing is more important for the future of our province. Indeed nothing else even comes close. The project will provide high wage high value jobs to a new generation of workers. It will boost consumer spending, government’s tax take, and it will turn Halifax into one of Canada’s high growth cities for the future.
It’s been said that this project is the most important defence related initiative in the province in the 100 years since the Navy was established. In fact, it is the most important project of any kind in 100 years. The raw numbers bear this out. The project will generate upwards of 4000 jobs in Atlantic Canada, mainly in Nova Scotia, with spinoffs spread across the Atlantic Region and across the country. The project could generate as much as $7 billion in Nova Scotia wages, much of it destined for spending on homes, cars, and other things. The project could pour close to $1.3 billion into provincial tax coffers, money the province will desperately need to deliver the increased health care and other services we will need in the near future.
Of all the major projects on the books in Atlantic Canada this is the largest. Nova Scotia’s largest energy project, Deep Panuke is worth an $800 million project which and will generate 400 direct and indirect jobs. Nova Scotia’s largest residential construction project, Clayton’s Bedford West Development, will be worth $1 billion over 20 to 25 years and house 20,000 people when completed. All of Newfoundland’s planned investments in offshore oil development and exploration are worth about $6 billion. The Atlantic Region’s largest mining project is the Voisey Bay Nickel processing facility with an investment of $3billion. It will include 3000 person years of construction and 400 fulltime jobs thereafter. All of these vital and important projects pale in comparison to the potential of the combat ship project contemplated for Halifax Shipyard.
The project will allow new small business to start up and grow while driving new opportunities for dozens of existing businesses. It will provide first job opportunities for new community college and university grads and may even attract some of the talent that has flowed west in recent years. Indeed the project could spur higher levels of business confidence as thousands of workers and hundreds of businesses begin to contemplate 30 years of steady work and steady business at Halifax Shipyard.
Nova Scotia’s important Tourism industry accounts for about 2% of GDP or $646 million in provincial gross domestic product. Employment is 22,400 generating direct income of $475 million. This project would be like adding 50% to the value of the tourism industry in one year and continuing that impact every year for a generation.
So yes times could be about to change. One of Canada’s great family companies and some of Canada’s most talented workers have thrown in together to provide a mix of shipbuilding expertise and a history of accomplishment that can’t be matched anywhere in Canada. Already 250 apprentices are in the vanguard of the next generation. This next generation is hopeful that merit, superior technical expertise and a history of accomplishment will win the day. They are hopeful that there will be no political thumbs on the scales of decision makers on this project. It’s too important. The size and scope of this project and its potential to drive positive economic growth in our province is unprecedented. Nova Scotians have begun to stand with the men and women of Halifax Shipyard in their bid for a better future for all of us.
Fred Morley is the Executive Vice President and Chief Economist at the Greater Halifax Partnership.