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Membertou senior adviser talks Ivany Report at Halifax Chamber of Commerce

'We all have to take the lead'

Greg McNeil

HALIFAX — First Nations success stories and the need to act now on the Ivany Report were among the topics addressed by Dan Christmas during an address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

"I think the worst thing we can do is think that somebody else is going to take the lead," said Christmas, about the aspect of his speech referencing the Ivany Report.

"Everyone has a role and we all have to take the lead. It's not just government."

The senior adviser for Membertou spoke as part of the chamber's Distinguished Speakers Series luncheon.

Christmas is also a committee member for the commission that produced the economic development report, known as the Ivany Report, which stated that the province is barely able to support its current standard of living.

The One Nova Scotia Coalition created in the wake of the report announced last week that a detailed plan to tackle provincial issues would be developed by December 2015.

Christmas worries that people and organizations might consider taking a pause from the work that needs to be done until the report is issued.

"My overall message was 'let's not wait for the coalition to issue it's report a year and a half from now.' Let's get busy now and start working on making those changes now."

During his speech, Christmas also addressed the growing aboriginal population in Nova Scotia, a dramatically dropping unemployment rate among Mi'kmaq over the past 10 years and how groups like the Mi'kmaw Economic Benefits Office have reached out to business to promote and train young people as a potential source of skilled labour.

Christmas said much of this may have been new information to his Halifax audience.

"I think people know the story of Millbrook and Membertou just by driving by those communities, but I think that there is more of a realization that other First Nations are beginning to take the lead and making a difference in their areas."

Valerie Payn, president and CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said the need to act now on the Ivany Report has Nova Scotians talking.

"We all have to work on those challenges and big opportunities that were put out in the Ivany Report," she said. "That's what Dan was saying, 'put your pedal to the metal and go, let's not wait any longer and figure out your piece and just run with it.' It sounds exactly what Membertou has been doing. He delivered a very strong and positive message here today."

As for the business success of First Nations communities, she said all Nova Scotians can learn from the partnerships and collaborations that have helped to make that happen.

"He indicated that individually the First Nations communities might not have been able to do certain things," she said. "When they collaborated and pooled their resources, all of a sudden all kinds of opportunities were able to be grasped."

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