Former university president to head review of Nova Scotia business programs

HALIFAX – A former president of Dalhousie University has been appointed to lead an independent review of Nova Scotia’s financial assistance programs for the private sector and come up with recommendations by the end of next month.

Former Dalhousie University president Tom Traves will look at loans, loan guarantees, grants, equity and payroll rebates, the provincial government said Thursday.

Economic Development Minister Michel Samson said Traves will speak with key business groups and leaders in order to improve the way the government provides assistance to businesses.

“We’re giving his access to all the current tools that are being used in order to see what’s working and what possibly could be enhanced … and more importantly, who should be using those tools,” said Samson.

The review will also examine the role of Nova Scotia Business Inc., the province’s arms-length business development agency, and Innovacorp, the province’s early-stage venture capital organization.

The government also hired Gilles Durufle, a venture capital consultant, and the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University to conduct research on the impact of the province’s venture capital investments. Their work is expected to take four months.

Samson said Durufle and the Sobey School of Business were selected without tender after his department decided to split the responsibilities of the review.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives have taken issue with the way the government has handled the review so far, saying it falls short of their commitment to transparency.

The overhaul of economic development programs has been one of the Liberal government’s key promises since it was elected in October.

Premier Stephen McNeil said regardless of what the review recommends, he will keep his promise to scrap government grants.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what they are going to say, but I think I’ve been pretty clear around the grant issue in that they will be gone,” McNeil said.

Traves will be paid about $40,000 for his work while Ontario consulting company Millier Dickinson Blais will get $67,000. The Sobey School of Business and Gilles Durufle Consulting will be paid $65,000.