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Letter: ‘Democracy Cookbook’ intended to stir the pot


I am writing in response to Tom Hawco’s letter to the editor (“Not even the 'quadruple helix’ can save us”), published on Oct. 4. Tom’s article was in response to one of The Telegram’s instalments from “The Democracy Cookbook.” This is exactly what we need in our province — lively and open debate over what we mean by good governance, how we achieve sustainable development, what our future society should look like, etc. “The Cookbook” is achieving its purpose!

I do think Tom also raises lots of great points about the long history of community and regional development in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the past, this province has been a leader with the creation of Regional Development Associations, Community Futures Committees and Regional Economic Development Boards. “The Democracy Cookbook” includes chapters going into this history, and the lessons learned, in some detail.
The fact that we have shifted from one model to another, often based on the same principles, but never giving any of them the chance to mature and adapt is a reflection of our approach to governance. Unfortunately “that was them, this is us” is a common response of new governments, regardless of the political party in power.

Tom takes umbrage with the term the “quadruple helix.” Fair enough. It is jargon, and every profession and discipline has its share — economic development is no exception. What it means, actually supports Tom’s argument, in part. Our province’s approaches to regional economic development have emphasized the need for industry, community, government and post-secondary institutions to work together (that’s the four elements in the quadruple helix). With the helix, however (think about the cool spiral that depicts DNA), the four pieces are intertwined, not one above the others. That is a difference from our approaches in the past — government has always claimed to be in the driver’s seat (although it kept changing the vehicle we were trying to drive in). And we haven’t had nearly the success we should have as a result.

And contrary to Tom’s understandable despair about the prospects of rural Newfoundland and Labrador in light of recent population projections, the evidence is that our municipalities, businesses, non-governmental organizations and many others are ready to work with governments and with our college and university to do things in new ways, collaborate, and make a sustainable future where a smaller population is highly productive, efficient and innovative. The world is full of small jurisdictions that offer higher quality of life than most of the larger more populous places. But core to them all is good governance — at the local, regional, province or state, and national levels. This is one case where too many cooks won’t spoil the broth — we all need to speak up, debate and forge a prosperous future together.

Rob Greenwood, executive director
Harris Centre
Memorial University

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