Our last full day in Newfoundland began with a delicious breakfast with executives at Memorial University. Memorial or MUN is the only university in NL and is known as Canada’s Oceans University.
Rob Greenwood from MUN gave us a presentation on the state of NL today. He noted that people are moving from coastal communities to the urban centres. He suggested that the resource sector today is all about the knowledge economy and he opined that NL needs more diversification if they want to be sustainable. He noted that resilience and adaptability come from capacity building, which he feels is the key. He noted that a competitive advantage can be created by making linkages with transportation, IT, education and R&D.
We then moved on to the music department at MUN. There is huge support for music programs in NL and our presenter noted that she never has to defend the school of music. The department has created a cd series which aims to take rare NL music and expose it to the world. When asked what she would like us to relay to the Governor General she noted that there is no longer any mobile recording system in all of NL since the federal government made the recent cuts to the CBC.
Meeting with the Premier
We had the absolute pleasure to meet with the Honourable Cathy Dunderdale, Premier of NL. She was very candid with us and answered most of our questions with passion and integrity. She explained that NL only joined confederation in 1949 and they don’t always feel a connection to the rest of Canada. She noted that while 30 per cent of the province’s revenue now comes from oil, her government has made a commitment to use the revenue from non-renewable resources to invest in renewable resources such as wind and power.
She described the Churchill Falls power project as “an open, weeping sore in the province”, given that Quebec retains most of the revenue from the project. She described the Lower Churchill project at Muskrat Falls as “the last great opportunity”.
She described the relationship with NL and the current Prime Minister as “troublesome” in terms of the whole EI debate, She suggested that this issue has demonstrated the real divide between the Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada.
The Premier explained how she got involved in politics when the fish plant in her small community closed and the citizens campaigned to get it opened up again. On leadership she encouraged us to always stick to our principles because it’s been her experience that she gets into trouble whenever she comes away from her principles.
We were then treated to lunch at the Genesis Centre, which is a business incubator at MUN. This unique centre, which is mostly government funded helps entrepreneurs with tech-based ideas with high-growth potential become investment-ready. They provide technical, business and physical support for entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground.
Lieutenant Governor, John Crosbie
Later in the afternoon we attended a reception at Government House where we were treated to a flowery address from the Lieutenant Governor. He spoke of his work with regard to the seal hunt and about leadership. One of his pieces of advice was that he’d “rather put his foot in his mouth than speak with a forked tongue.”
We were thrilled that Mr. Crosbie agreed to be interviewed by our roving Puffin and he even has an important message for Puffin to take back to the Governor General.
Dinner with Newfoundland Power
Arguably one of the finest dinners we experienced in NL was at the Woodstock House. The food was plentiful and delicious and no one could finish their plate. This event was hosted by Earl Ludlow and he gave a candid and refreshing talk about his company and the challenges he faces as a leader in the power industry.
No trip to NL would be complete without becoming honourary Newfoundlanders so Mr. Ludlow arranged for some ‘byes from the bay to come and screech us in. We were given hats to wear and all had to kiss the puffin’s arse, repeat the oath and down a shot of liquor. We were all given a certificate proving that we had completed the challenge and Mr. Ludlow gave us all a beautiful hardcover book of photos of NL.