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Letter: Pumped about the province’s potential

Hopelessness and desperation are the order of the past weeks in our province’s news cycle, not to mention a little dash of self-loathing for good measure. Robin Short and James McLeod have joined the ever-growing ranks of those who see fit to shame and complain, offering no tangible solutions, as they ignore any potential that rests within the province.

I’ve been studying in Montreal for the last two and a half years at McGill University. I can, however, assure you that I follow the news back home.

I’d like to share three of my thoughts on these issues. First, James McLeod’s complaints are completely unoriginal. Second is that our problems are not nearly as big as the solutions that exist in the world today. Third and finally, no one ever talks about the potential in the province!

Firstly, to prove the unoriginality of McLeod’s ideas, I’d like to remind you of how Newfoundland and Labrador lost its independence. According to Greg Malone in “Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders,” it happened on Dec. 15th, 1933. Chapter 1 of his book depicts how British politicians used our (then country’s) economic state during the Great Depression to justify transforming it from dominion (relatively independent) to colony (under British control). Amazingly, during the Depression people used our province’s poor economic standing to berate and marginalize Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, ultimately taking our independence.

Aside from all the above, why don’t we start teaching our kids to write computer code? They did it in Israel, which became an IT giant!

Today, most countries around the world are suffering from large deficits, demographic issues and health-care issues related to inactivity. I suggest that we have these problems for no other reason than these are the times we are living in. Is it the fault of our politicians and policy makers? Absolutely! But, while holding their feet to the fire, our attention should be focused at least as much on future improvement.

This leads me to my second point: our province’s problems are not nearly as big as the solutions that exist. During my time in Montreal I’ve worked in a research group that studies how societies innovate, grow and fail. There are no easy answers.

Through this work, I’ve helped organize conferences with world-class entrepreneurs, and what I’ve learned is that the right idea, with the right conditions, can transform a society. One attendee of our last conference “Innovation in Context2: Scaling Up” was a teacher who created a computer application. After less than 10 years her company and application sold for nearly $100 million.

How can we say that there is no solution to our current economic problems when we live in a world where a single business endeavour can be worth so much? The answer: we can’t.

My third point is that we have the potential to solve our own problems. Newfoundland and Labrador attracts artists and chefs from around the world with a culture of welcoming others that is internationally renowned. So, I ask myself, where are the entrepreneurs in N.L.? Where are the coders? Where are the inventors? The answer: they’re already here, and most of them are getting up to go to kindergarten tomorrow morning.

I see expansion potential in aquaculture projects on the Southern Shore, fisheries partnerships in Labrador, microbreweries, a slow return to a sustainable inshore fishery, growth in tourism and sustainable agriculture on the west coast, spreading the model artist colonies from Fogo, new ocean management approaches in Nunatsiavut, Bonavista’s social clubs and theatre, tourism in Torngat Mountains, phenomenal projects from Enactus Memorial, and with some innovative solutions to power storage, wind farms!

Aside from all the above, why don’t we start teaching our kids to write computer code? They did it in Israel, which became an IT giant! All we need is an internet connection and a computer, and anyone, anywhere across the province can learn the skill that is reshaping the modern economies of the world.

So, next time someone gets on your nerves about how we live in a failed state, or how apparently playing music in an airport is just the worst thing in the world, laugh, crack open a cold beer from Quidi Vidi, Yellow Belly or Port Rexton Brewing Co., and get to work, because there’s a lot to do.


Michael Gardiner


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