**** PREMIER’S OFFICE Media Release
Premier Reflects on 2020’s Tragedies and Graces
NOTE: The following is an op-ed from Premier Stephen McNeil
Tragedy. Strength. Horror. Resilience. Fear. Compassion. Sorrow. Kindness.
All of these words come to mind – and I’m sure you can think of a few more – as we look back on 2020, a year we have longed to put behind us but one we will not soon forget.
Like so many other jurisdictions around the world, COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks.
We had to shut down much of our economy and distance from friends and loved ones as we tried to contain the virus and protect each other’s health.
But the worst was yet to come. 2020 brought pain and sorrow to so many Nova Scotia families.
We lost 65 Nova Scotians to the virus. We lost 22 more in the senseless violence in and around Portapique. Three Nova Scotians died in a naval helicopter crash in the Mediterranean Sea. While the iconic Snowbirds flew to lift Canadians’ spirits, a crash claimed the life of a Halifax native. The fishing vessel Chief William Saulis went down in the Bay of Fundy and the six-member crew perished.
Our hearts ache for the families who are still grieving and please know, we hold you in our thoughts and prayers.
Throughout this year, we asked too many times, how much can one province bear?
But in the midst of all this darkness, the spirit of Nova Scotians brought light.
People pulled together in a way that was true to our values. We were Nova Scotia strong. Across our province, neighbours and families, friends and strangers supported each other. We found new ways to connect as we grieved. We checked on neighbours who live alone. We left groceries on the doorstep for people self-isolating. We bought local. We explored our own province.
Our government has also worked to support Nova Scotians throughout the year. We created targeted grants and loan programs for businesses to fill in gaps in federal assistance. We have invested in technology to support students and teachers. We have contributed to food banks and taken steps to help tenants facing significant rent increases.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we completed the rollout of the pre-primary program in the fall. Now every four-year-old, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, will be able to get started on the right foot for elementary school. It is an investment in both our present and our future.
The year saw a historic acknowledgement by government. The Black Lives Matter movement motivated us to look inward and confront difficult questions about racism in our province. We have made progress rooting out systemic racism, but we know there is much more to do. Apologizing for the systemic racism that has marked our system of justice, including policing and the courts, started a commitment to fundamental change in the approach to public safety.
As we reflect on the past year, let’s also remember the tireless work of our public health team and front-line health-care workers to take care of us and help us stay safe. And recognize the essential workers who are trying to keep our economy running and our schools operating.
On behalf of all Nova Scotians, I want to thank you. Your courage and commitment to helping others has inspired us all.
We may never be able to forget 2020, but we do need to move forward and I see signs of hope. The vaccination program has started. It will take time, but every Nova Scotian will have the opportunity to get that shot in the arm.
It may be hard to imagine, but 2020 started out with much promise.
Employment and immigration were at record highs. Our government delivered balanced budgets for four consecutive years and had planned for a fifth. Our population was growing faster than it had in almost 50 years and our international exports had grown by 24 per cent in the past seven years.
Those fundamentals still exist, which means Nova Scotia is well positioned to take advantage of the global economic recovery.
And I believe we have another special advantage and that’s all of you – the people of Nova Scotia.
You have shown strength and resilience in dealing with this pandemic and all of the other hardships this year has brought.
You’ve proven that those time-honoured Nova Scotia values of kindness, caring for your neighbour, and strength of community matter. Those same traits are exactly what this province will need in its recovery.
I believe in you. I believe in this province.
I have never been more proud to be your Premier.
I wish you all good health and happiness in 2021.