Nova Scotia has been a net loser of youth (ages 20 to 35) each and every year since 1984. We have lost 16,650 young people in the last decade, including 3,200 people in 2013; our highest recorded total in at least 33 years.

By 2036, Nova Scotia is currently projected to have 100,000 fewer working age people relative to 2010, while the population of seniors reliant on expensive healthcare and pension entitlements will nearly double in size.

The Ivany Report’s message was crystal clear. If we can’t turn these numbers around, Nova Scotia faces certain long-term decline, including diminished qualify of life, prolonged economic stagnation, lesser and more expensive public services, less cohesive communities, and degraded cultural institutions. We desperately need more of our own young people to stay and we need to attract many others from beyond our borders. 

In this view, the first budget of the Nova Scotia Liberal government was a major disappointment. The Province decided to eliminate the Graduate Retention Rebate (GRR) immediately, without reinvesting the great majority of the money into alternative programs to support youth retention and success.

The GRR allowed graduates to reduce provincial tax payable by up to $2,500 for a degree and $1,250 for a diploma program for the six years immediately following the completion of a degree or diploma. It sought to address the concern that graduates who stay in Nova Scotia are likely to earn lower incomes and pay higher taxes than in other provinces. However, people with higher incomes have benefitted the most from the GRR and there is no evidence that the program has been successful in retaining graduates. StudentsNS recommended reallocating funds from the program to other initiatives to support students and graduates. We could have improved the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program to meet students’ needs and convert all its loans to grants, with plenty of additional funding left over.

The Graduate Retention Rebate’s value, according to Department of Finance estimates, would have been $43 million in 2014-15 and then $49 million from 2015-16 moving forward. However, the government eliminated the program without reinvesting roughly $35 million of the money it is saving in programs to support students and youth.

Nova Scotia must do whatever it can to support young people and reverse Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic decline.

As the Ivany Commission said, it’s Now or Never.

The GRR was not effective in attracting and retaining young people, but $50 million per year, if spent wisely, would go a long way. The Liberal government has made an egregious mistake in taking that funding away from our young people and sent a message that youth retention, attraction and success is not a priority for Nova Scotia. If they think they are reflecting Nova Scotians priorities though, they have it dead wrong.

Please sign the petition calling on the NS government to reinvest in youth retention and see our Chronicle Herald Op-Ed with more really important facts on youth in Nova Scotia.