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Saint Mary’s University Leads New Institute Tackling Unemployment

Nova Scotia will spend $1.1 million over the next two years to connect rural communities and small business with experts and researchers at half a dozen universities and community colleges.

The new program is called CLARI—Change Lab Action Research Institute—and it’s aiming to find new ways to solve stubborn problems such as outmigration and unemployment that have stalled growth in the provincial economy.

“These challenges can’t be solved in isolation,” said Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan.

Regan says the province needs to bring in different perspectives and expertise together in a creative environment. She says CLARI will be that place.

Saint Mary’s to lead and benefit

“That assistance could focus on the repurposing of an old building or development site,” Rob Summerby-Murray, president of Saint Mary’s University, said at the announcement on campus Wednesday.

“It could include assisting a local agricultural producer to find new markets or business practices. Or developing a business plan for a small or medium-sized enterprise in a rural community.”

The province will spend $800,000 toward building new program offices at Saint Mary’s University, which is the lead on the project.

Partners include the Nova Scotia Community College, Acadia University, St. Francus Xavier University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University and Université Sainte-Anne.

The remaining $300,000 will be used for programming, including the hiring of an executive director when CLARI, a non-profit agency that will have to cover its costs in the future, hangs out its shingle a year from now.

Ivany report

Regan told reporters the CLARI initiative is a direct response to recommendations in the Ivany Report on the economy, which came out 18 months ago.

When asked if waiting another year for the launch of CLARI suggests a lack of urgency, the minister said people can still take their problems or pitches to universities now.

Some schools such as Acadia University may be able to take action through its Centre for Rural Innovation.

The Coady International Institute at St. FX is well known for its work on social development and MSVU is home to a Centre for Women in Business.

Kevin Vessey, dean of graduate studies at SMU, says realistically it will be next October before CLARI can respond to pitches from community groups and small business. He says it’s a good idea to bring them forward so they can get in line to be evaluated