Premier's Speaking Notes at Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade

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Speaking Notes
Honourable Kathy Dunderdale
Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade
Thursday, November 28, 2013

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It’s not difficult to appreciate what draws tourists back to Corner Brook. The stunning scenery, the rugged mountains rising from Humber Arm, the parks, the trails, the ski slopes of Marble Mountain – the whole package is unforgettable. To discover it from a cruise ship slipping in through the Bay of Islands must be quite spectacular.

Still, the greatest impression is left by the people – your openness and hospitality, your solid work ethic and joie de vivre perfectly balanced. How could anyone fail to be inspired by this place! Artists, writers, hikers, campers, sports enthusiasts, entrepreneurs – they all find themselves drawn here.

It is a place like no other in the province, and that is why it features so prominently in all our tourism campaigns – the ones that have been winning awards across the country and beyond.

It’s perfectly understandable why people who live here feel intensely passionate about strengthening and sustaining the economy on which this region is based. It’s a passion I share.

When I sing the praises of Newfoundland and Labrador while meeting with my fellow Premiers or with business leaders from around the world, I never fail to show them images and tell them stories of this region.

I’d like to focus today on some of the things we are doing to invest in a bright and sustainable future for Corner Brook and the entire western region.

CORNER BROOK PULP AND PAPER

Let me begin with the largest industry and most prominent employer of the region, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. It is no secret that, in recent years, the pulp and paper industry has faced challenges and upheaval. Operations have been shuttered across the continent and around the world. Corner Brook’s pulp and paper operation is one that remains strong.

Through cooperation, compromise and a series of strategic investments by our government, we have been able to weather the storm. Our confidence in the future of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is far stronger today than it was a year ago, and that is very good news indeed.

I am proud that our government chose to make significant investments in Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. totalling approximately $100 million since 2004. This amount includes silviculture, Power Purchasing Agreement, training, forest protection and more. We recently provided the company with a term sheet outlining the proposed terms and conditions of a financial assistance package. The total amount of the loan is $110 million.

Some wondered openly whether we as a government were doing the right thing by standing with this employer in Corner Brook. Workers at mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor made tough decisions to take other paths. We as a government have helped them identify new opportunities that are showing great promise in sustaining them as centres of growth, even in the absence of the mills.

The difference here in Corner Brook is that the workforce has made the decision to invest in the future of this mill as an ongoing venture. Our government is standing steadfastly beside you in your choice.

Having taken this path, Corner Brook is today moving forward with confidence and strength as the 21st-century hub of Newfoundland and Labrador’s forest industry.

The forest industry is not dying. It is changing. It is not just an industry rooted in the past, but very much an industry of the future.

A major reason for my confidence in the future of the forest industry in this city and region is that people here are ready and willing to be open and forthright with one another, to cooperate and collaborate, and to work hard at securing a solid foundation of trust.

Everyone from the company and the union to the council, the business community and our government are unwavering in our commitment to chart a course forward that benefits the entire community to the greatest extent possible.

TOURISM AND INNOVATION

Forestry is a major pillar of this region’s economy, it’s true – but it’s not the only pillar. Corner Brook is blessed to have an economy diversified well beyond a single industry.

As the largest city on the west coast and among the handful of large cities in our province, Corner Brook is vital as a centre of activity in a broad array of sectors – government, private industry, wholesale, retail, transportation, mining, agrifoods, tourism, the arts, education, innovation and so forth.

It is one of Canada’s great small cities, growing more famous each year as a tourism mecca, a recreational hub, a youthful college town and a centre of leading-edge innovation.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of launching a campaign to showcase the advances Newfoundland and Labrador is making as a centre of innovation in Canada.

It’s actually a well-kept secret that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been world-class innovators and global traders for generations, pioneering inventions and new approaches in one sector after another.

Building on our province’s new innovation strategy, we have stepped up our game and shown leadership in fields at the very leading edge of technology. I’m talking about leadership in aerospace and defence, robotics, ocean technology, medicine, information technology and the like.

From home base in Newfoundland and Labrador, innovators and entrepreneurs are making breakthroughs and raising the bar like never before. It’s time to tell their stories so young people can not only appreciate what they are doing, but emulate their success by following their lead.

One of those innovators is Magine Snowboard, located right here on the west coast. I’d like you to watch a video that is celebrating the work Magine is doing along with three other exciting companies from around this province.

The work of these companies is reflecting enormously well on all of us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We can indeed be among the best in the world in one sector after another without having to leave home as previous generations so often did. It’s a brand new day!

One of the most exciting new developments in the region is the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre. To drive innovation and facilitate business startups, this centre is engaging potential entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of enterprise development – what they call the “pre-startup phase.” Their approach is to introduce ambitious young people to the resources, programs and people that can help them get their ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. Already, Navigate has helped 37 businesses get off the ground and provide more than 87 full- and part-time jobs in the Greater Corner Brook and Western Newfoundland region.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Even when times have been tough and resources have been limited, we have invested strategically and proactively in critical infrastructure to position our regions to make the most of emerging opportunities for growth. Why? Because growth is the one thing that gets us from where we used to be to where we need to be and ought to be.

We must ensure that all of our choices are focused on helping us grow. Whether it is the twinning of highways or the construction of ferries, the building of schools or the servicing of municipalities, every investment is designed to make us stronger than we would otherwise be. When Corner Brook grows stronger, Newfoundland and Labrador grows stronger.

We must do what we can to ensure every region is positioned to capitalize on its particular strengths, and Corner Brook has many.

EDUCATION

I am so proud of the advances we have made in education in this city and region. Since 2004, we have approved over $43 million for K-12 infrastructure investments in the Corner Brook area. This includes the extension and redevelopment of both the Corner Brook High School and the former Regina High plus planning for the redevelopment of G.C. Rowe Junior High in addition to ongoing funding for repairs, maintenance and school improvement projects.

At the post-secondary level, we have taken deliberate action to position the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University as a leader in its own right – a unique place with a unique identity. Cumulative investments of $29 million since 2008-09 have enabled Memorial to implement a new governance structure for increased autonomy at Grenfell. Grenfell is a great place to learn, to grow, to collaborate and become something better than you ever imagined you could be.

HEALTH CARE

Not only is this city a leader in education, but it is also a leader in the delivery of health care.

In 2008, we were delighted to open the new, $3.6 million Humberwood Addictions Centre. In 2010, we opened the new, 236-bed Corner Brook Long-Term Care Facility and four, 10-bed Protective Care Residences, all financed through an investment of $68.5 million. This month, we have opened the new, $2.8 million, 14-bed Restorative Care Unit at the long-term care facility.

Western Memorial Regional Hospital has long served as a teaching hospital because it is one of the province’s largest, serving an vast region and earning an enviable reputation as one of the finest regional hospitals in the country. But like many of the health care facilities in our province, it has aged and needs replacing. In fact, Corner Brook is at the top of our priority list, and I was proud to announce in March that, over the next three years, we are investing $227 million to construct a new Corner Brook Acute Care Facility to serve the city and the entire western region. We anticipate the final cost of the facility will be in excess of half a billion dollars – and it will secure Corner Brook’s place as a leader in state-of-the-art delivery of medical care.

In the meantime, we have already invested millions of dollars in medical equipment: a new MRI, two nuclear medicine gamma cameras, a new CT scanner, digital mammography equipment, a chemistry automation system, orthopedic equipment, new scopes, lab equipment, upgrades to the maternal newborn unit, even new hospital beds – and on and on I could go with details.

The health care system in this city serves an enormous population base, and these investments will ensure the quality of care these facilities deliver is second to none.

FRACKING AND DEVELOPMENT

Restoring and safeguarding the health of residents is among our paramount concerns, right alongside educating and advancing our people and securing and sustaining a strong economy. It is vital that we balance our priorities to ensure we accomplish all three of these goals.

Sometimes, the goals seem to conflict. For example, the new industries we want to develop may have unintended consequences. That is the reason we subject all major development projects to review under the province’s Environmental Assessment Act. In recent months, concerns have been raised about a petroleum extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The concerns are such that we, as a government, have decided to conduct a review before any development proposals are entertained. This will not only provide clear answers about the safety and sustainability of such practices in our province, but give greater clarity to developers before they get deep into developing proposals. In other words, from both an environmental health perspective and a business development perspective, our approach makes good sense.

ECONOMIC SUCCESS

The importance of striking the right balance between protecting our natural heritage and developing our resources is something the people of Corner Brook understand better, I suspect, than most in our country. This is a region where beauty and development coexist, and people benefit equally from both.

This balanced approach is also one that we as a government share. It is the approach that has grounded our plan to develop Muskrat Falls, to shift our economy to reliance on renewable energy that is not only cleaner and more sustainable than the alternatives, but also less costly to consumers and more lucrative to the treasury than the alternatives – by an enormous margin. On no project has there been more study, more disclosure or more clarity that it is the right course to take.

The proof that we, as a province, are on the right course is especially evident this year, a decade after we took office. All five of Canada’s national banks plus the Conference Board of Canada agree that our province will lead the entire country in economic growth this year by a significant margin, and confidence is tremendously high for the future beyond 2013.

Every region is reaping the benefits of our growth, particularly Corner Brook, which will see enormous public investments as the revenues flowing in to our treasury continue to grow. This is an exciting time for Newfoundland and Labrador and for this region. We are clearly on the right path and finally witnessing the kind of growth we have always hoped to achieve.

It is not luck but sound planning and decisive action that has brought us this far. We are on the right course.

On every measure, we are far better off today than when we started. Let us not lose sight of the goal or forget the approach that has proven so effective in leading us there, but let us continue to advance the work we have started so that all of us reap the benefits of this momentum and ensure it endures for generations to come.

Thank you.

 
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