Unity key to restoring economic, political strength in Maritimes, MLA says

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin wants Atlantic provinces to present a united front to the federal government, especially on issues like health care

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OTTAWA — As a fractured, post-pandemic Canada struggles to find common ground, one Nova Scotia provincial politician wants Maritimers to draw on their similarities and present a united front to lawmakers in Ottawa. 

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It’s an initiative that Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin says is long overdue.

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“When I look at the history of the maritime region — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. — we were stronger economically before Confederation, so we need to look at what decisions were made after Confederation that led to where we are.”

Despite acting as the birthplace of Confederation, the Maritimes’ political influence on the federal government has waned over the past century-and-a-half, Smith-McCrossin said.

“When we understand our history of how we came to be, it helps us to understand how we’ve gotten into the situation that we’re in today,” she said.

Smith-McCrossin sits as an Independent representing the riding of Cumberland North, the province’s north-central counties that share land borders with New Brunswick — an area she described as the “middle of the Maritimes,” but also in the province’s outskirts, about 120 kilometres due north of the provincial capital Halifax. 

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“We really see the impact of a lack of unity,” she said.

“We really see how much stronger we could be if we worked together as a maritime region — removing interprovincial barriers, uniting on regional issues at a national level, I think we could really become a lot stronger.”

The biggest issue right now, she said, is the ongoing crisis in health care — a problem she says is “exponentially worse” compared to the rest of Canada. 

“We have a greater percentage of older population in the Maritimes, and definitely here in Nova Scotia,” Smith-McCrossin said.

“It’s just a fact that we’re going to spend more money on health care or have higher health-care demands because of our older population.”

A 2021 Fraser Institute study suggests a little less than half of all health-care expenditures in 2019 were spent on Canadians 65 and older. 

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Taking into account projected population growth and aging, that percentage may grow to as high as 71 per cent by 2040. 

“In addition to increasing funding, I believe in the Maritimes that the funding formula needs to change based on demographics,” Smith-McCrossin said.

“Here in Nova Scotia and in the Maritimes we have people with broken hips waiting for over six hours on the floor for an ambulance, and we just had somebody literally take their elderly mother with the broken hip to the hospital themselves.”

What this movement isn’t, Smith-McCrossin assures, is a rehash of previous unity movements — nor is it a call to exit Confederation. 

“The Maritime premiers and all leadership need to be looking for ways that don’t just benefit our own interests, but benefit the interests of the entire region,” she explained. 

“There’s been other movements that have led to some positive change. I think we’re in place right now … we’re perfectly placed for another movement towards maritime unity, and I think that our region and our people would benefit greatly from that.”

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