APEC Governors Share Their Vision For Atlantic Canada
The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council held its Annual General Meeting in Charlottetown on June 16th, 2011. At the dinner following the AGM, three business leaders with long-standing involvement with APEC shared their vision for Atlantic Canada with members and guests. The engaging discussion was moderated by Costas Halavrezos, well-known radio journalist and former host of CBC's Maritime Noon.
A recurring theme of the panel dialogue was the importance of diversifying our region's private sector in order to build a stable, productive economy. The speakers also emphasized that investments need to be made in order to improve Atlantic Canada's workforce, both by increasing education and skills training for younger generations and by encouraging immigrants to seek opportunity in the region. And the panelists saw a need for a long-term commitment to regional cooperation by the region's public and private leaders, so that Atlantic Canada can pool its resources to better compete in the new global marketplace.
President and CEO, Growthworks Atlantic Ltd.
Past Chair, APEC
Tom Hayes is an Atlantic Canadian businessman and entrepreneur with a proven dedication to increasing access to venture capital in the four Atlantic provinces. He praised recent examples of regional cooperation, notably the establishment of a new regional venture capital initiative by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and he expressed the hope that the governments of PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador would also participate. Tom also sees great strides being made on the building of inter-provincial energy linkages between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador around the Lower Churchill project. Tom sees the region's universities as among Atlantic Canada's greatest assets but also expressed the hope that more could be done to encourage visiting students from elsewhere in Canada and the world to remain in Atlantic Canada once their studies conclude. Beyond the activities of governments and institutions, he says Atlantic Canadians themselves need to have more confidence in their own abilities and strengths, to truly believe that they have the power to shape their own future.
Jo Mark Zurel
President, Stonebridge Capital Inc.
First Vice Chair, APEC
President & CEO, BioVectra Inc.
Past Chair, APEC
Ron Keefe, CEO of one of the region's leading biotech firms, has demonstrated an enduring commitment to supporting the development of the university and research facilities in his home province of PEI. He believes that future success in Atlantic Canada requires political and business leaders to strive for a stable and diversified economy strong enough to render a high standard of living to its residents. Regional cooperation is key to improving Atlantic Canada's economy, particularly to achieve economies of scale in the delivery of government services such as health. Ron also said that Atlantic premiers need to be convinced of the benefits of interprovincial cooperation in areas that would facilitate the development of more effective industry clusters, sectors that are vital to enticing highly trained individuals to Atlantic Canada. Faced with weak economic prospects in the Maritimes, he suggests that premiers have to put more focus on regional cooperation in the future as a necessary strategy to collectively improve their economies.
Jo Mark Zurel has long been at the forefront of encouraging private sector growth and entrepreneurship at his investment company and as the chair of the St. John's Board of Trade. Jo Mark feels Atlantic Canada needs to focus on gaining a greater share of the global marketplace and creating a culture of risk-taking which encourages entrepreneurship. In order to improve Atlantic Canada's economy, Jo Mark urges regional leaders to address Atlantic Canada's pressing productivity problems and demographic challenges. The attraction and retention of immigrants is vital to replenishing the region's aging population, and he feels it is crucially important to open our doors to international workers whose training and credentials may not be identical to ours. As well, he believes that today's leaders need to show vision and fortitude in order to make difficult sacrifices and investments for the region's economic future. According to Jo Mark, APEC has a unique role to play in bringing together diverse regional interests and governments, and by helping them act as a team. One way he says governments can think bigger is to recognize the unique gifts of their neighbouring Atlantic provinces, and to support each other's economic strengths rather than subsidizing competing clusters and initiatives.