Atlantic Canada’s a great place to live with a quality of life envied by our fellow Canadians and many others around the world; our environment, our scenery, our heritage and our people all contribute to a wonderful community we should be proud of. Because we all wish our region continuous growth and prosperity, we should each participate in making this an even better place to live.
I’ve noticed lately that many of our regional communities and some of our businesses seem to be struggling with the same issues, but each is approaching it independently. An example would be downtown revitalization. During a recent development application, I heard someone say they should erect a sign at the entrance of that town proclaiming it: “The World’s greatest collection of small-minded thinkers.” I don’t accept that. If we all worked together, perhaps we could find solutions to common problems, leading to greater overall prosperity.
Consider this a start to the conversation. (Note: while some of my ideas may appear to be unrelated thoughts, in reality they’re all interconnected. To appreciate these connections, however, we must look at the big picture because that’s the first step toward progress and prosperity.)
We must change our attitude about ourselves, about others, our place in the world, our expectations of government and our capabilities. We must drop the parochial world view and remember we’re part of the global economy, competing and trading with local and international traders.
We must believe in our core industries like agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism but we must also seek new opportunities, developing a spirit of innovation in business and technology.
Let’s sharpen our focus on service and delivery, proving we want to compete in the global economy.
Let’s welcome Americans, Europeans, Asians and other nationalities because there’s nothing to be gained by building walls.
Let’s encourage young people to pursue their ambitions here, in Atlantic Canada. If we unlock the potential of our youth while building sufficient economic structure our communities will grow and thrive. Business leaders should mentor young entrepreneurs, providing guidance and opportunities within their businesses. Bringing young people into the business community will make us stronger in the current economy.
Let’s change the way our government is doing business. We’re fortunate to have control over important jurisdictional levers that affect our economy but we must clearly communicate to our governments how we want to exercise this control.
Government shouldn’t be “in business” whether it’s golf, waste management, industrial parks or technology centres. Instead, it should facilitate business growth and nurture business skills to help regional companies compete. Instead of competing with local businesses, government should invest in programs that develop a spirit of enterprise and community. The marketplace would then be free of public sector inefficiencies and regional businesses would be stronger.
Politicians must stop micro-managing mistakes. Opposition is about providing advice and ideas in the public interest, not grandstanding. Let’s set aside differences and move forward. Political parties highlighting private business issues in public debates only tarnish the image of businesses in the region, causing bankers and investors to shy away from doing business here.
We have the abilities, ambitions and resources to reach for our dreams and build our society. If I’ve learned anything in business, it’s that anything’s possible through ingenuity, hard work and cooperation. Let’s develop our own expression, “think regionally, act locally”.
We’re part of a close-knit community. While business, by nature, involves competition, there are ways businesses can work together by partnering on projects, joining associations for a common cause, discussing innovation and buying local products. We needn’t fear our local competitors. If regional businesses (including direct competitors) are strong, the provincial economies will be strong and we’ll be better positioned to compete in business nationally and globally.
While I’m not proposing a merger of the Atlantic provinces, I would like to see a conference or symposium with business leaders and politicians developing a simple position paper on how we could work together for greater progress and prosperity in our region. There are many opportunities for improvement.
This approach is admittedly ambitious but I call on Premier Ghiz to take the initiative and arrange this gathering. I hope other leaders will attend. We can’t shy away from “Big Dreams.” The alternative means losing the way of life we’re so proud of. By dreaming “Big Dreams” we’ll achieve “Big Things.” We can have progress and prosperity now and in the future if we strive for it.