Invest Nova Scotia was created in 2022 — it still has no advisory board

Scott Farmer is the deputy minister of Nova Scotia's Economic Development Department. (Legislature TV - image credit)
Scott Farmer is the deputy minister of Nova Scotia's Economic Development Department. (Legislature TV - image credit)

About 14 months after the Nova Scotia government created a new agency to oversee economic development, the advisory board for that organization still has no members.

The deputy minister of economic development cannot say when that will change for Invest Nova Scotia.

"I would say in the coming months, I couldn't be more specific than that," Scott Farmer said during an interview on Tuesday.

Farmer was one of five witnesses to appear before the legislature's standing committee on natural resources and economic development to discuss the topic of support to the rural economy.

Invest N.S. CEO taps many resources

During the meeting, New Democrat MLA Gary Burrill asked Peter MacAskill, the president and CEO of Invest Nova Scotia, why the advisory board was still not in place. MacAskill said those appointments follow the legislature's agencies, boards and commissions — or ABCs — appointment process, something he has no control over.

"I'm waiting anxiously as well," he told MLAs on the committee.

MacAskill went on to say that despite the lack of an advisory board, he gets regular input from businesses and economic development staff around the province.

"There are a lot of people who I've called out and I've actually had that conversation directly with them and said, 'You know, from an advisory perspective we are looking to you for your specific advice."

Premier Tim Houston announced the creation of Invest Nova Scotia and Develop Nova Scotia in 2022 to replace Crown corporations Nova Scotia Business Inc., Innovacorp, Nova Scotia Lands and Develop Nova Scotia.

Accountability rests with cabinet ministers

Unlike the Crown corporations they replaced, the new organizations are not arm's length from government with independent governance boards. Instead, they have CEOs who are answerable to cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, along with advisory boards.

In an interview, Burrill said he cannot understand why the advisory board for Invest Nova Scotia is still not in place.

"I think it's unusual and odd to hear that zero members of that board have been appointed, and that the CEO of Invest Nova Scotia has no idea when that might be the case," he said.

Liberal MLA Fred Tilley said the lack of an advisory board is a missed layer of accountability by the government.

"This is just another example of dragging their feet so that they can move things forward without that accountability."

Farmer said the government has solicited names for consideration several times and wanted to wait until there was "a critical mass" of potential candidates to be considered.

"We want to get to the benefits of the board as soon as possible, but sometimes these processes — the ABC process — takes a little while."