Program aims to foster future leaders

Colin MacLean
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National group touring province

A study group from The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference pose on Signal Hill after trying on period British military costumes. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram

Newfoundland and Labrador seems to be the tour destination of choice for many of Canada’s future leaders.

A study group with The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference has been touring Newfoundland and Labrador since last week.

These are the lucky few who got their first choice in destinations.

Of the 231 people participating in the prestigious event, more than half asked for Newfoundland and Labrador as their first choice of destinations.

It’s easy to see why, said Jeff Horvath, chairman of the study group visiting the province.

This province has developed a reputation for being beautiful, geographically and economically.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has developed this reputation as a beautiful, welcoming, friendly place that is ruggedly beautiful,” said Horvath, who’s from Alberta.

“And it’s pretty far from most of Canada. So we don’t have the opportunity to get out here. It takes some effort,” he added.

Horvath experienced that local colour first-hand a couple of weeks ago. He was running around Quidi Vidi when he stopped to take in the icebergs that were in The Gut at the time.

On his way home, somebody from a house called out to him, asked where he was from — and invited him in for a feed of fish.

You don’t always get that sort of thing back home, he chuckled.

But unfortunately for everybody else in the program, only about a dozen conference participants got the chance to visit Newfoundland and Labrador this year.

The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference is a two-week event that brings together Canadians selected by a panel of judges as being future leaders in their fields of work. Participants range from teachers to non-governmental organization leaders and labour leaders to vice-presidents of major energy companies.

The week starts out with a two-day meeting with the Governor General before each study group splits up and heads to their selected province. They spend about a week and a half meeting with business and political leaders, touring major developments and participating in workshops. They take time every day to discuss what they’ve seen and its implications for leadership, the community and the economy.

Once the touring is done, the group reconvenes somewhere for the conference and discusses what it’s experienced.

The program is funded by private and business donations.

The conference is held only once every four years.

More information is available online at

There are several Newfoundlanders and Labradorians participating in this year’s event, but none in the group currently touring the province.

The group is here until Tuesday — but members have been busy.

Since arriving in the province last week, the group has visited Stephenville and seen its struggle to diversify its economy. It has seen the challenges faced by rapid growth in western Labrador and members have chatted with St. John’s Mayor Denis O’Keefe about the economic boom on the Avalon.

“It’s mostly been getting up at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed after midnight,” laughed Gurvinder Singh, of Vancouver.

Singh works as an adviser to the Canadian Red Cross on preventing violence against children.

He signed up for the program because, in his opinion, it would have been foolish not to.

“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to meet other people from across the country,” he said.

To date, the experience has been incredible, he said. Coming from the west coast, he said it’s a real eye opener the first time you touch down in St. John’s. He expects the experience to help him in his future career.

“When you come to this coast, you can see how Newfoundland has a very distinct culture. The rugged environment and just the hospitality of the people. But what you also see ... although we’re from coast to coast in this large country — there’s so much that binds us together in terms of our values and our vision for Canada and its future.”

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Canadian Red Cross

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Alberta Stephenville Vancouver

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