Left to right: Premier Tim Houston, Business Minister Suzanne Corkum-Greek, Public Works Minister Kim Masland, Service Nova Scotia Minister Colton LeBlanc. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

The Houston government is consolidating five government agencies down to two after a review designed to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability. 

As of today, the CEOs of Nova Scotia Business Inc, Develop Nova Scotia, and Innovacorp are out of a job. Laurel Broten, Jennifer Angel, and Malcolm Fraser will receive severance worth six to 12 months of their six-figure salaries. Citizens who served as board members on government agencies are also being dismissed and the new agencies will report directly to a cabinet minister.

“These changes are meaningful,” said Premier Tim Houston. “They will lead to accelerated economic growth and more effective and accountable government for Nova Scotians.”

The Progressive Conservative government will pass legislation in the fall to create two new Crown Corporations. 

Build Nova Scotia

Build Nova Scotia will replace Nova Scotia Lands — a Crown Corporation supervising the building of the new Halifax Infirmary and all health care infrastructure, as well as the remediation of Boat Harbour. It will also take over the work that has been done by Develop Nova Scotia. Develop Nova Scotia oversees the delivery of high-speed Internet to rural communities as well as the development of waterfronts in Bedford, Lunenburg, and Halifax. Build Nova Scotia will also absorb Harbourside Commercial Park in Sydney. 

As Houston did with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the boards of directors have been dismissed and will be replaced by an executive chair until a new CEO can be hired. (In the case of Nova Scotia Health, Karen Oldfield remains in the top job 11 months later.) 

Wayne Crawley, a seasoned entrepreneur who runs a venture capital firm called Venor and formerly held an executive position at Emera, has been chosen by the premier to run Build Nova Scotia. The job pays $1500 a day up to a maximum of $18,000 a month.

Invest Nova Scotia

The second newly-minted crown Corporation will be called Invest Nova Scotia. It combines the work formerly done by Nova Scotia Business Inc and Innovacorp to provide loans and services to help homegrown businesses start up or expand, as well as attract new companies to the province. 

As with the other boards, the boards of Nova Scotia Business, Inc and Innovacorp have been dismissed and will be replaced by an executive chair until a CEO for the new Invest Nova Scotia is recruited. Houston picked Tom Hickey, who started an offshore safety company that morphed into a traffic and construction business called Front-Line Safety, to run Invest Nova Scotia at the same pay as Crawley.

Houston told journalists he is “fans” of both entrepreneurs and considers them friends. 

Some journalists questioned whether dismissing the boards of directors of the five crown corporations agencies would eliminate the “arms length relationship” they have traditionally had to operate independently from political control. Houston clearly thinks that independence is overrated.

“The new CEOs will be accountable to the minister,” said Houston. “We have a situation in the province right now where there’s really no accountability except to a board that’s not elected. What we are doing is building accountability into the system.”

Opposition critics react to changes

“It was not helpful to hear the premier say he was appointing his ‘friends’ as the heads of the two new crown corporations that will come out of the five that will be dissolved,” said NDP leader Claudia Chender. “Ultimately, what we have been saying and will continue to say is there are matters of overriding public interest. Those matters are the crisis the health care system is facing and people’s inability to pay their bills and get by with the inflationary environment we are in. Those are the issues people care about — not this.”

“It’s the track record or pattern we’re seeing,” said Liberal Economic Development critic Fred Tilley. “If you look at the Health Authority, removing a very capable doctor from the helm of that institution and replacing with a partisan non-health professional. The premier has referred to that saying the health care system is in a ‘remarkable’ position, but I feel it is remarkably worse. So these changes are concerning.”

Hospitals

When it comes to Build Nova Scotia, former paramedic and Service Nova Scotia Minister Colton LeBlanc has been tapped by Houston to take responsibility for the development of new hospitals in the province, which are some of the biggest government capital projects in Canada. Public Works Minister Kim Masland oversees the rest of the Nova Scotia Lands portfolio, with an annual budget of $18,181,000.

Today’s restructuring affects total budgets worth $100 million a year. Houston insists while cost-cutting was not the focus of the review, he expects changes to streamline the delivery of services and reduce duplication and overlap will result in eventual savings to taxpayers. 

Asked directly by the Examiner if he could guarantee no civil services job would be lost through the re-org, Houston said the only guarantee he could provide was that Nova Scotians would get more efficient government. That sounds as if layoffs could come later this year.

The review of government crown corporations and agencies removed 485 “defunct” entities. No changes will be made to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, and quasi-judicial agencies such as the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board were not part of the exercise. 

Another 165 boards or agencies will be reviewed this fall. 

Employees of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and Municipal Finance Corporation will be integrated into the Department of Finance and those agencies will be dissolved.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Although the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was part of the review of the crown corporations and agencies, the government still has some big decisions to make about the governance structure and whether it will proceed with a new $130-million-plus building on the waterfront. 

The previous CEO of the art gallery has left and the current board of governors does not have a quorum that enables it to make decisions. The government must decide whether to appoint more board members or change the governance structure as it has done with other agencies. 

Houston indicated changes are coming and there will be some announcements in the future. He didn’t rule out the possibility the proposed new gallery could be scaled back or cancelled to save money that could be applied to the escalating cost of building a larger hospital to replace the moldering VG.

“I want to thank the outgoing board members and each of the CEOs for their service to Nova Scotia,” said Houston. “ I know with change comes uncertainty but the message to our partners and to the business community is that Nova Scotia is open for business and we will do whatever is necessary to make it easier than ever to grow here in Nova Scotia.”

This article has been updated with responses from the opposition critics.


Subscribe to the Halifax Examiner

We have many other subscription options available, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

Join the Conversation

8 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. We finally made head ways with Develop NS on Accessibility for the Disabled..because of the great teams at Develop NS. Think Tim Houston and his cronies are going to listen to anything those of us with Disabilities have to say? Highly doubt it. Take a look at his friends armour group and the Queens marque…. this government is maddening. and big whoop for little Timmy taking a pay loss..certain he won’t end up on the streets or parks of HRM.

  2. I loathe the “[X Jurisdiction] is Open for Business” sloganing. Trite, overused, and of course signals that the person making it only sees a very narrow view of the economy and what success looks like

  3. Wayne Crawley, as in former COO of Unique Solutions Designs, the body scanning company, that Wayne Crawley????? If it is the same person you need to update this story to show what happened to the tax payers dollars invested there.

    1. Hi Joanne, yes, Crawley was brought in as COO of Unique Solutions just as the company was in its death throes. My read on this was it was in a spate of desperation, trying to find some value in the company, and they brought in Crawley, who had lots of experience in the investment world. It’s true that anyone who touched that company is soiled by the association, but I really don’t think its failure can be assigned to Crawley — at that point, no one could save the company. At least, there are bigger fish to fry — Peter MacNeil, for example, and the rest of the crew at NSBI. Just my read! feel free to disagree, and of course the rest of Crawley’s career deserves scrutiny, which we’re attempting to provide.

  4. The source is Premier Houston who made the comment at the news briefing. The “defunct” or dormant entities would be agencies, boards, and commissions. We weren’t supplied with examples but I could request a list. Another 165 of these entities will be reviewed starting this fall. Examples MIGHT include a harness racing commission or Arts organization or mink-farming Board that once existed but no longer does. Hangovers from the past that are no longer active.

  5. The Examiner seems to be alone in noting “The review of government crown corporations and agencies removed 485 “defunct” entities.” Is there a source for this piece of information? Has the actual review been released or is the press release all of the information that was released today.

    1. The source is Jennifer Henderson, the reporter who was in the room for the announcement.