BY JENNIFER HOEGG
Kings County Advertiser/Register
The Bay of Fundy was a topic all its own at the Kings Regional Development Authority’s annual general meeting.
Guest speakers Scott Travers and Terri McCulloch spoke on the Bay’s potential for energy production and tourism in a jam-packed room at the Muir Murray Estate Winery in Lower Wolfville overlooking Fundy’s waters June 17.
Travers, president and chief executive officer of Minas Basin Pulp and Power, asked members of the RDA to consider “how will our Atlantic economy survive, even prosper, in face of change and unpredictable energy supply?”
He says the answers to a sustainable economic future lie in business innovation, courageous leadership and regional cooperation. The Hantsport company is the first Nova Scotian company to sell carbon credits and the first, other than Nova Scotia Power, to sell electrons.
Likening economic prediction to predicting the weather, Travers cautioned about becoming complacent about energy sustainability now that oil has come down in price.
“Whether you believe in climate change at all, all should be concerned about North Americans’ carbon footprint,” he said. “We are creatures of habit - and I’m worried about our habits.”
Environmental sustainability is important to Minas Basin, Travers said. It wants to foster a “culture of sustainability based on people, community and environment” in order to “turn problems of the day into opportunities.”
To do so, Minas Basin moved away from pulp to making paper from recycled cardboard, and has been generating hydroelectric power for decades.
However, Minas Basin and the paper industry in general face a big problem: competition from Asia - where environmental standards are lax - and escalating energy costs.
“We live in a glass house: our energy bill is huge.”
Other industries will face the same challenges, he said, so sustainable energy is essential.
“In Nova Scotia, we are 89 per cent dependent on energy from beyond our borders. We’re in harm’s way when it comes to energy security,” Travers said.
Minas Basin wants to become an energy supplier, in biomass cogeneration (turning wood waste into ethanol), turning plastics into diesel and using tidal energy. Travers’ company is building the province’s tidal energy demonstration facility, FORCE, to be handed over to the public sector. He said there are great things to come from the Bay of Fundy: a potential 8,000 megawatts of electricity “if we can safely extract it.” He urged exploration of wave and wind energy, too, as well as control over transmission lines running through the province from Churchill Falls to the United States.
Although he bandied about the word, Travers urged caution in using term “sustainability.” True sustainable business is like a three-legged stool, he said, based on sustainable environment, community and finances.
In order to take advantage of the province’s energy potential, Travers said our leaders must show creative, entrepreneurial spirit to move to positive change and cooperation: “we need to think as a region, not as competing jurisdictions.”
Kings RDA outgoing chairman Hugh Simpson called the speech inspiring and urged his colleagues to do their part to make Travers’ vision of a sustainable future a reality.
Nova Scotia also has lots more to do when it comes to promoting the Bay’s natural elements to tourists, McCulloch says.
The manager of Bay of Fundy Tourism - a joint Nova Scotia and New Brunswick agency - says the Bay’s unique ecosystem is underappreciated by locals: “our ordinary is someone else’s extraordinary.”
“We’re watching visitor dollars draining to New Brunswick.” - Terri McCulloch
A strong showing for Fundy in the New7Wonders of Nature contest, begun in 2008, has raised the visibility of the Bay’s features, and Bay of Fundy Tourism is trying to make the most of the opportunity. McCulloch estimates the contest has been worth $3.5 million in media coverage so far.
“We’re going to go for the ride” until winners are announced November 11, 2011. “It’s engendering a lot of pride and excitement.”
Her organization’s low budget necessitates creativity in demystifying the Bay: visitors know the Bay has high tides with a 50-foot range, whales and interesting geology - so they expect a tsunami twice a day, performing marine mammals, gems and fossils galore. McCulloch’s organization’s online presence, a YouTube travel show, brochures and a new interprovincial map aim to convey the real, still-spectacular assets of the Bay.
On the Nova Scotia side of Fundy, there are many geological, historical and museum sites, with an emphasis on cultural heritage. Kings County enjoys all of the bay’s geological marvels: vertical and horizontal tidal effects, tidal rapids, sea cliffs and fossils.
But Fundy has been neglected as a tourist attraction. More services for tourists who want to get out and do things on the Fundy Coast, including at Cape Split and Blomidon, are needed. With visitors who want to “go and do things” left on their own, “we’re underselling” McCulloch said.
“We’re watching visitor dollars draining to New Brunswick.”