Mayors discuss the challenges of growing cities

Bonnie Belec
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Stavanger, Norway, Deputy Mayor Bjorg Tysdal Moe (left), St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe and Perth, Australia, Mayor Lisa Scaffidi discuss some of the challenges of being leaders of energy cities. The World Energy Cities Partnership's annual general meeting wrapped up in St. John's Friday. -Photo by Bonnie Belec/The Telegram

Even cities known as energy hubs have needs, say some of the mayors involved in the World Energy Cities Partnership (WECP).

They say they need better transportation, housing and skilled labour, and the challenge to meet those needs are the same, whether you're talking about St. John's, Calgary, Stavanger or Perth.

Energy city mayors were in St. John's for two days for the non-profit WECP's annual general meeting, where they discussed a range of topics affecting municipalities that are recognized around the world as being international energy capitals.

"We have paid particular attention to the concept of building connections and sharing intelligence because we realize, as energy cities spanning all continents, the more we share our knowledge, the more we share our experiences, the more we share our opportunities and the more we share our challenges, the more successful we will be," St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said Friday.

He and Stavanger, Norway, Deputy Mayor Bjorg Tysdal Moe and Perth, Australia, Mayor Lisa Scaffidi discussed what they have in common as well as the obstacles they face as the leaders of energy cities.

"We are all growing. The cities are growing and looking into the same challenges," said Tysdal Moe. "We need better transportation, which is in progress, and housing, and we have to have young people coming into the industry - talents. These three main issues we have been talking a lot about and we can do it together and we can learn from each other, and this has been very inspiring. We love to grow, but we have to find the way to do it in a sustainable way."

Scaffidi said mayors have to communicate with residents and other community leaders and explain that industry expansion and growth does not mean a change to lifestyles and family living.

"They need to embrace the change and be very proud of the fact we have this new sustainable future ahead of us, which means for citizens they're not going to lose children to foreign shores and can keep them gainfully employed at home, and with the right diversification of the economy and focus on growth of new industry sectors, it can be a fantastic growth pattern laid out for the city," she said.

O'Keefe said they also discussed the importance of co-operation among cities with universities and industries to concentrate on providing learning opportunities for young graduates from Newfoundland who are in other parts of the world and residents from other parts of the world who are living and training here.

"They're very ambitious, very intelligent, very young - hungry for knowledge and experience - and we have to play a role as cities and the industry to provide them with the opportunity of learning, internships and the work experience all around the world to enable them to develop the skills we are going to need into the future in order to develop the energy industry," he said.

Scaffidi said mayors appreciate the strength of their universities and the need to rely on academic excellence to enhance industry sectors and allow those sectors to grow.

"Skilled labour - the human capital - is so important," she said. "We all have great people, but we don't have enough people in our respective cities to be able to provide the output these industry sectors seek. So we're all importing, but competing at the same time for skilled labour.

"That's when a lot of international workers start comparing our cities to one another and saying, 'Do I want to live in St. John's or do I want to live in Perth? What's so good about Perth compared to St. John's?' And it could be different things for different people. ... We need to make the cities the best they can be to attract and retain skilled labour."

Before heading out on a bus tour of the city Friday, Scaffidi summed up the tone of the meetings on behalf of the city leaders, noting "together we can really be an ocean of change, but individually we are but one drop."

The next meeting of the group is in Houston, Texas, in May.

Organizations: World Energy Cities Partnership

Geographic location: St. John's, Perth, Calgary Norway Australia Newfoundland Houston, Texas

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    October 28, 2012 - 15:29

    Next meeting in Houston in May? Will that be just a picnic luncheon or full dress turkey dinner? These Mayors and Municipalities people are very creative when it comes organizing "meetings", especially their venues. But from what's evident on the East coast of Newfoundland is a sorry lack of planning. Build, build, & build some more, and the hell with the consequences.