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BM&T's Q&A: A Conversation With The Honorable Percy Paris
Gloria Herbert
 

The Honorable Percy Paris, minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism for Nova Scotia, started out in Windsor, Nova Scotia. His education took him to Saint Mary’s University where he received his Bachelor of Arts. Prior to Minister Paris’s political career, he was employed as a professor and director of the Diversity Initiative at Dalhousie University. He was also president and majority owner of an investment and holding company, as well as a hockey scout with the International Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

First elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2006 and re-elected in 2009 continues to keep Minister Paris busy. Minister Paris took time out from his hectic schedule to talk with BM&T Associate Publisher/Editor Gloria Herbert.

BM&T: Please give me your name and title, and briefly describe your duties.

MP: My name is Percy Paris. I’m the minister responsible for Economic and World Development and Tourism for the Province of Nova Scotia. I’m also the minister responsible for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Those responsibilities include everything connected with economic development in the Province of Nova Scotia, and inclusive in that would be the promotion of tourism to the entire province. I also am responsible for Nova Scotia Business Inc., Film Board Nova Scotia, Nova Core and a host of others, the World Trade Convention Center, the Waterfront Development Corporation, and a number of other agencies and organizations that have come under the office of the minister response for economic and world development tourism.

BM&T: Wow, that’s quite a bit.

MP: We were in opposition, and we got elected and I was very, very pleased and proud to join the inner table of the premier of the province.

BM&T: Now that the recession is subsiding, are travelers visiting Nova Scotia in greater numbers?

MP: Our numbers have been a bit of a hard spot. Our numbers are comparable to last year, basically the same. So its’ been a bit of a flat line. Now we have noticed an increase in European travel coming into Nova Scotia, especially from the United Kingdom and Germany. However, U.S. travel is down a little bit, but overall, it’s a flat line

BM&T: Okay. Approximately what percentage of travelers would you say are from the U.S.?

MP: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I don’t have that number in front of me, but I’d say most of our travel in Nova Scotia is from our land partners, then the rest of Canada, then the U.S. would follow behind that. I wouldn’t know what the percentage is. I would say that the overall total is that we roughly have about two million visitors a year coming into the province of Nova Scotia.

BM&T: What are some of the Nova Scotia new visitor products, attractions, accommodations, meeting facilities, and other things that would attract travelers and that travelers should know about?

MP: There are a number of things that Nova Scotia’s got, and I’m sure probably most of our neighbors to the south would recall joining last year’s campaign the New7Wonders of Nature that we had, the world’s highest tides and the running, which is certainly an attraction. We’ve got Peggy’s Cove, which is the most photographed place to be in Canada and one of the most photographed places in all of North America. We’ve got the relaunch this year of the Bluenose, that ship icon that’s on our Canadian currency. We have the tall ships visiting again this year. We host the world junior competition between Canada and Russia. We’re hosting this summer one of the Telus Skins Games. We have The Tattoo, which is one of our signature events, which takes place every year. We have something called [Celtic] Colors, which takes place in Cape Breton. We’ve got the Cabot Trail.

Cape Breton Island here in Nova Scotia has been noted as one of the most beautiful islands in the whole world. Some of the things, when it comes to new products that we’re working on, since I became minister and I’m an 8th generation person of African descent living here in Nova Scotia, and one of the things that has always been attractive to me is cultural tourism, so we’ve been putting a step forwards when it comes to promoting our cultural tourism to the rest of the world. And one of the markets that we will be looking at and have been exploring is the African-American segment. And there is such a deep connection between African-Americans and African-Canadians, especially here in Nova Scotia, that we want to get more of our brothers and sisters south of the border to take advantage of that. Because we are a multicultural nation and we are a multicultural province, I think that speaks well for the number of visitors we get from the United Kingdom with a certainty we’ve got a Scottish heritage here in the province of Nova Scotia, we’ve got a Celtic heritage.

One of the things about Nova Scotia is that no matter what it is that you want to do, we can accommodate. If you want to go surfing, we can do that. If you want to ride one of the highest tides in the world and take part in that experience of the tidal war, you can do that. You can go mud sliding. There’s just so much to experience. You can go deep-sea fishing. All of those things, and some of the best beaches in all of Canada are right here in Nova Scotia. I could go on and on and on, but the markets that we are trying to attract in Nova Scotia, one of the big things that we’ve got is the space. When you come to Nova Scotia you know, you’re stuck in traffic for 10 minutes and to us, that’s a traffic jam. We don’t have two-hour traffic jams and we’ve got a population here of not quite a million people. And we are also world leaders in a lot of things. We make huge contributions to the aerospace industry. We’ve made past contributions to the space programs especially the one in NASA. So we’ve been one of the greatest ship builders in the world, so we’ve got a lot to offer

BM&T
: You’ve mentioned the importance of the African-American market segment to Nova Scotia, so could you talk just a little bit more about some of the cultural heritage attractions and what would draw African-Americans; and secondly but most importantly, if you could talk about how Nova Scotia is reaching out to those markets. What are you doing? What efforts are you making to attract that niche-market of African-Americans?

MP: Good question, all of them. First, I’d think that my first response is that there’s such a connection; we have African Nova Scotians, we have relatives that moved from Nova Scotia and now reside along the eastern seaboard. We see immigration to Nova Scotia after the war of 1812, Black lawyers coming as a result of the civil war that was being fought in the U.S., the underground railway that people were using to escape safely from the U.S. to Canada. So we’ve had immigrants, eight migrations of persons of African descent coming from America right from the very, very beginning that settled here in Nova Scotia. And what many people don’t realize, however, but Nova Scotia was at one time home to the largest free Black population in the world outside of Africa.

So what happened here in Nova Scotia is many of my ancestors and those of the Black community here migrated to the U.S. for a number of various different reasons; and some of us have lost that connection and its time for us to reestablish those roots. We took African Nova Scotians to the U.S. a year ago on a trade development mission. I’ve been to Mississippi, I’m heading to Boston later on this month, and so we are trying to develop that market. We think that there are a lot of African-Americans that if they’d trace their heritage they would see a Nova Scotia connection and we want them to come and visit us and maybe even in some cases, we could have some sort of exchange going on between us and the U.S.

We also know that when it comes to our brothers and sisters south of the borders, we also found that there are many African-Americans who were surprised that there was a Black presence right here in our nation of Canada, and that we’ve been here from day 1. And that it’s a vibrant, active community. We’re reaching out to the world, we hosted last September for the first time in North America the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, and by all reports it was the best conference that’s ever been held in the world and was over here in Halifax. So we’re finding ways to promote our heritage and get the word out not only to African-Americans but to the world by starting with an emphasis on the United States that, ‘we are here, we want you to come, we want you to come and visit.’ And we want you to visit those themes that we have here and we have Shelburne, which is home for the Black loyalists when the Black loyalists migrated from the U.S. and settled in Shelburne and we are now in the process of building a museum in Shelburne all around the Black loyalists. We have one in Nova Scotia as well and we have the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia and we’ve got a museum dedicated to the contributions that people of African descent that people have made, not only to the Nova Scotia society but to the world. And so we’ve got that to show off and to boast about when visitors come and they want to learn about the Black experience and the Black presence in this province.

BM&T: Thank you Minister Paris for your time.
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