Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government says it will gather information from shoppers this summer as it tries to make good on an election promise to increase demand for local products.
The government says it will dispatch a team to stores and markets across the province to research consumer behaviour and collect data from shoppers.
As well, it says it will survey people about their thoughts on how the buy local program — called Nova Scotia Loyal — should be branded and operated.
“Because of the uniqueness of it, we want to make sure we get it right,” Premier Tim Houston told reporters following an event at the Masstown Market to launch the “prototype process.”
“To us, getting it right means that Nova Scotians feel a part of it, feel some ownership of it.”
Election promise to help local businesses
Promised last summer during the election campaign, the program’s goal is to create a 10 per cent rise in demand for local products. The government says it wants to have 20 per cent of all food purchased by Nova Scotians by the year 2030 to have been grown or produced in the province.
Houston says the buy local initiative is to be supported by a rewards program for consumers, although no final details have been released.
During the election campaign, Houston speculated that a points program could reward shoppers for purchases of local food and non-food items.
Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek told reporters that since the election campaign, the Tories have received further information that prompted them to reassess their plans based on data collected this summer. The final program will be rolled out when government officials know it is ready, she said.
Corkum-Greek said the goal is to have a program that is easy for people to use and doesn’t create any undue burden on retailers and vendors.
“We want a program that is meaningful and as inclusive as possible,” she said.
Critics say money should go to people, not businesses
The premier said he believes people, when they can, choose to buy local, and the new program is about providing an added incentive for making that choice. Corkum-Greek said the program will also help people who are already buying local products to realize that they’re helping local businesses when they shop.
Liberal economic development critic Fred Tilley said the government should be using the money going toward the development of the Nova Scotia Loyal program to help people struggling with rising inflation and cost-of-living expenses.
Tilley said he thinks the government could promote supporting local businesses and vendors in a way that doesn’t require creating a new rewards program.
Eric Jennings, who founded the Masstown Market, said the key to growing support for local products is ensuring people get good quality and service at a reasonable price.
Supporting a local business means supporting a local family in your community, he said.
“That family, any money they make is going to be spent in the community and that keeps rolling around and the money keeps going around.”
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