MacKay gets nod on rural internet

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Hugh MacKay outlines his priorities as MLA for Chester-St. Margaret&#8217;s at a meeting with councillors from the Municipality of Chester on July 13.</p>

Hugh MacKay, the newly elected MLA for Chester-St. Margaret's, will help lead the push for better broadband internet access in rural Nova Scotia.

As the ministerial assistant to Geoff MacLellan, Nova Scotia's minister of business, MacKay said he will likely take the lead on tourism as well.

MacKay made the announcement to the Municipality of Chester on July 13.

"So I'm very excited about that because it was one of the things that I campaigned on, so I'm very glad that the minister and the premier listened to my advocacy on that."

Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for the Department of Business, said MacKay will support the minister on policy development and priority files within the department, including rural internet and tourism.

The lack of reliable internet access in rural Nova Scotia has been a constant sticking point for governments and is something both municipal and provincial entities have tried to previously solve.

The Municipality of Chester recently agreed to spend up to $10,000 on a rural internet study, together with the Municipality of Lunenburg and Region of Queens Municipality.

On the subject of tourism, MacKay said the sector is fundamental to the economy, but is not the "be all and end all" for Nova Scotia.

"We do not base an economy on a seasonal sector that pays minimum, or slightly above minimum, wage for most people, but it is a key economic driver and input that we must take advantage of," he said.

"I can't think of a better constituency in the province for me to be focusing tourism on than Chester-St. Margaret's."

MacKay said marketing and promotion are challenges for tourism and more investments are needed in infrastructure.

He used the Yarmouth ferry as an example and criticized the service for not providing Wi-Fi.

MacKay said he will meet with regional managers from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to draft a list of priority roads in the riding, and will focus on senior's issues, particularly affordable housing, the promise of a pre-primary program, coastal and wilderness protection, and clearcutting.

He said there are arguments both for and against clearcutting, adding the province will review all aspects of forestry, including cuts on Crown land.

MacKay said he would include the voice of private woodlot owners as well, calling them a "strong group of constituents."

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