PREMIER DANNY WILLIAMS
ST. JOHN�S BOARD OF TRADE
SEPTEMBER 9, 2009
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Thank you Dereck (Sullivan)
- Executive of the St. John�s Board of
Trade and Members;
- Members of the House of Assembly;
- Other elected officials and all of
you who are hoping to be elected officials!
- Ladies and gentlemen.Well, what an
eventful year it has been since I spoke here last September!
It�s hard to believe it was only a year
ago, on September 7 that the feds in the US took over sub-prime lenders
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; Lehman Brothers failed a week later; oil
prices started to tank � no pun intended - after hitting $147.30 a
barrel in July; the North American auto industry was suffering
tremendous blows; and a thriving global economy crashed head-on into the
wall of a major recession.
On the home front, Newfoundland and Labrador has not escaped the impact
of these forces sweeping around the world. Grand Falls-Windsor suffered
a major blow with the loss of a paper-making mill that had been in
operation for a hundred years. Other major employers in forestry, mining
and the fisheries watched demand dip and prices fall.
We saw lay offs around the province, particularly in Labrador west where
global realities hit the workforce head on.
And while the past year has been eventful, I can hardly believe that is
has been almost six years since I became the Premier of this great
province. Those six years seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye
and I have to boast a little and say that I am delighted with the
progress we have made in that time.
Progress that we have made as a government and as a people.
Progress that laid the foundation to fight head on the very economic
recession that still grips many jurisdictions around the globe.
Progress that has certainly benefited members of the St. John�s Board of
Now I know that in these past six years we've made some unpopular
decisions as a government.
We've made some decisions that made a lot of people in this very room
scratch their heads and had national media rubbing their hands together
in glee because they thought, "we've got a live one down on the Rock now
But we have also made decisions that have brought prosperity, success
and unprecedented benefits to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
And I can tell you, that behind every one of those decisions was a plan.
Nothing was done independently without taking into account the whole
picture. Even the craziest decisions you can think of were not made
recklessly or without tremendous analysis, thought and the collective
insight of our government members.
I hope this does not sound too much like a typical political sound bite
� but when I entered that office on the 8th floor of the Confederation
Building in 2003, I � along with my team � truly had a vision for this
I knew that I had a passionate team around me; I knew I had to listen to
experts and businesspeople like you; and more than anything I knew that
as long as we did the right things for the right reasons that we would
enjoy success that has eluded us for far too long.
Your faith in our government�s vision is largely why despite the
economic turmoil of the past year or so, I have to believe that
Newfoundland and Labrador is not a bad place to be these days in terms
of business, economic activity and opportunities for the future.
When the recession arrived, unlike most we were ready for it. We had
laid the groundwork to survive. In fact, Global News said earlier this
week that Newfoundland and Labrador has weathered the recession better
than any Canadian province or territory.
When the recession did hit full on, we were quick off the mark in
February with an unprecedented infrastructure investment package and
other targeted initiatives to fuel activity in our economy. This, of
course, built on our already strong infrastructure program of the past
While we did not escape the turmoil unscathed, something very unusual
was at work here in the midst of the storm. As investors around the
world were backing off and hunkering down, investor confidence and
optimism in Newfoundland and Labrador remained strong.
In January, Corporate Research Associates CEO Don Mills reported to
Board of Trade members that consumer confidence in this province as of
last November ranked possibly the highest in the western world.
In October, Dominion Bond Rating Service and Standard & Poors upgraded
our province�s credit rating.
In November, we learned that, for the first time since Confederation, we
would no longer qualify for equalization.
We had become a have province � a tremendous milestone that signaled the
turn of a page for Newfoundland and Labrador and the start of a brand
new chapter in our history.
In December, we repatriated our water, timber and land resources from
Abitibi because they broke their commitment to the people of the
Then in January, we negotiated improvements to the development agreement
with Vale Inco for the construction of a commercial hydromet processing
plant at Long Harbour.
In April, for the first time in the province�s history, Newfoundland and
Labrador began wheeling hydroelectric power through neighbouring Quebec
into the North American marketplace � specifically, New York.
In June, we launched a five-year, 28 million dollar strategy designed to
capitalize on opportunities and expand the local ocean technology sector
and positions our province to be the nautical NASA of the North.
In June, we also announced that we had achieved a 10 per cent equity
stake as well as a top royalty rate of 50 per cent in the Memorandum of
Understanding reached with our oil industry partners to develop the
Hibernia Southern Extension. Revenue to the province from this project,
from all sources, is estimated to be 10 billion dollars.
This major agreement built on the momentum of the final deal for the
development of the province�s fourth offshore oil project, Hebron, which
came just months after we reached an agreement on White Rose expansion,
complete with an equity position, additional benefits and a super
Our mining sector is another in which we continue to see great promise.
This year, we made a record investment of 3 million dollars in the
provincial Mineral Incentive Program. Last year, our mineral industry
reported record-breaking highs with the value of mineral shipments
reaching 5.4 billion dollars, a 40 per cent increase over the previous
year�s record shipments and an astounding 850 per cent increase since
As we turn the corner on this year�s global downturn, we are looking
forward to more bright days for production, exploration and development
in our mining industry.
And of course, we are pushing ahead with the development of the Lower
Churchill project. We have gained great momentum with this project
including the signing of the New Dawn Agreement with our Innu partners.
Nalcor Energy has also issued an Expression of Interest to six
engineering and project management companies in order to determine their
interest in bidding for the Lower Churchill Project�s detailed
engineering design work.
The six companies are worldwide specialists in hydroelectric,
transmission and civil construction and the contract award is expected
As well, a directive of the province�s 2007 Energy Plan was a proposed
1,200 km High Voltage direct current (HVdc) link to be designed to
deliver up to 800 megawatts of power to the island with an option to be
extended and deliver up to an additional 1,000 megawatts to the Maritime
Provinces and potentially the New England and New York markets.
Submission of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Generation
aspect of the Project and the environmental registration of our
Labrador-Island Transmission Link has taken place. And project
construction could take place next year, once EA approvals have been
In a time when green energy is more sought after and in demand than ever
before, the time for the Lower Churchill development has never been
The Lower Churchill project including the Labrador Island Transmission
Link, combined with the Upper Churchill and our existing hydro
generating facilities on the island, provide the opportunity for more
than 98 per cent of the province�s electricity requirements to be met
with stable, clean, renewable power.
This is a unique and enviable position compared to other jurisdictions.
As I said last week, one important component of the Lower Churchill
development is obviously the ability to transmit the power. I will state
again here today, that it is unfortunate that our neighbours at Hydro
Quebec are not more cooperative in this regard. Power which was bought
by Hydro Quebec for 0.25 cents per kw/h in 1976 is being sold for over
9.0 cents per kwh or 36 times more than what they pay for it.
When you consider these exorbitant profits that Quebec has taken from
our Upper Churchill resource, it is simply a mystery to me as to why
they would continue to be obstructionist. And let me be clear � I am not
talking about the people of Quebec, who I believe have a great deal of
affinity with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
I am talking about Hydro Quebec officials who continue to insist on
having a stranglehold on energy transmission in Eastern Canada.
We need to work together as a country to optimize supply from all areas
in order to satisfy our increasing demands for renewable energy. New
transmission will only serve to enhance inter-provincial trade and allow
better integration of new and existing generation supply and increase
operational reliability between jurisdictions.
And I repeat that the national government must be involved in building
these long haul power highways from east to west and north to south.
We have a new opportunity in the Lower Churchill to see a provincial
resource used for the national interest, particularly in the context of
developing green energy. And we are very excited in this province to see
this project through, and we sincerely hope that other interests do not
work to derail the natural progression of such a wonderful green
And while we work away on the so-called mega projects, our government
has also made tremendous progress generating new revenue to more
effectively provide a solid foundation for a reliable network of
socially-progressive policies and programs.
Everything from education to health care, from housing to home care,
from apprenticeships to older worker adjustment, from violence
prevention to poverty reduction.
Government has utilized our natural resources � both on and offshore �
to strengthen our financial position, dramatically reduce debt, reduce
taxes, fund up unfunded pensions, negotiate historic public sector wage
agreements that led the country and contribute to programs that support
economic growth across all regions.
And despite uninformed claims by editorialists and opposition to the
contrary, we have invested heavily in rural areas.
In fact, more than 80 per cent of overall expenditures go outside of the
Avalon to ensure a broad base of economic diversity and potential for
Newfoundland and Labrador is becoming increasingly well-positioned and
recognized as a place to invest � a choice location for companies based
abroad to locate or expand.
And our government has taken a proactive approach to facilitate business
development. Programs have climbed steadily over the years and total in
excess of 87 million dollars. That�s 87 million dollars available for
ranging from tax credits and incentives to support for the manufacturing
industry to export readiness and much more. We also have a new 30
million dollar Business Attraction Fund, an Oil and Gas Manufacturing
and Services Export Development Fund and a new 4 million dollar
Aerospace and Defense Fund.
We have also rebranded this province with not only our new tourism ads,
but also with a new brand logo that I firmly believe has helped our
province stand out in the marketplace.
We have reduced red tape, we have kept business tax regimes competitive
and we are always working to ensure that our business community has the
tools, programs and policies necessary for success.
One of the other things that our government has done that I am probably
most proud of is very simple � we have started to listen to our youth.
Now goodness knows I�m not one to take to the bank the opinions of the
Globe and Mail. But I would like to quote from a recent editorial some
very unsettling and relevant comments.
Quote: �As analysts slice the numbers to determine the recession�s
winners and losers, one often forgotten demographic, with modest
aspirations, is starting to stand out. As a group, youth expect three
things: that jobs will be available to them; that opportunities for
further training and advancement are within reach; and that they will
not be saddled with costs bequeathed by previous generations. In each
regard, young Canadians are getting a raw deal.�
Well, folks mark down the date. Because I agree with the Globe and Mail.
Indeed, several years ago I committed to the youth of this province that
not only would our government start by hearing what they have to say; we
would actually listen.
After all, the work we are doing to turn this province around is really
about ensuring that our next generation is a success. To make sure that
our next generation is able to live here and work here and raise a
We started by listening to our post secondary students who told us they
were being so financially burdened that success was a very elusive goal.
That is why, since 2003, we have dared to do more than ever before to
strengthen our education system, bringing our public investment in
education for the very first time starting in 2007 to more than a
billion dollars a year. We have maintained a freeze on tuition fees and
provided the most-progressive student aid reform package in all of
Canada, bar none. Not only our own students, but students right across
Canada and around the world are taking notice and choosing to study in
Newfoundland and Labrador.
New graduates are choosing to stay in our province and are applying
their skills to the growth of our communities, which is vital if we are
to ensure we never again slip into the downward spiral of decline.
The Globe editorial ends by saying, �Policy makers and CEOs need to know
that it is not just displaced middle-aged workers who need and deserve a
cut of the stimulus or a shot at future prosperity.�
Well, that is precisely the thinking behind an initiative that we will
release in the near future, our first ever Youth Retention and
We live in a global, competitive environment; so we want to ensure as a
government that we are listening to our youth. We need to enable our
young people to be bold leaders and partners, and we need to work with
them to set out policies and strategies that will shape our future.
Our Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy will achieve this goal,
as it reflects the values, priorities and ideas of the young people of
And today, I am throwing out the challenge to each and every business
here to read this strategy when it is released and to embrace it. The
youth of this province are the leaders of tomorrow. And we must
collectively ensure that we give them they support, mentorship and
guidance they need to succeed.
And we have an incredible foundation of success for our youth to build
upon. As I said earlier, during this year of economic uncertainty, our
province has indeed bucked the trend. In fact, given the global
realities of the past year, our economic indicators are downright
For January to July, urban housing starts increased by 1.5 per cent in
Newfoundland and Labrador, second amongst provinces behind PEI. For the
country, urban starts are down 43.7 per cent.
Retail sales in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 5.7 per cent in
June 2009 compared to last year. By comparison, at the national level
retail sales decreased by 2.7 per cent.
Labour income in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 4.8 per cent in
the first half of 2009. Nationally, labour income increased by only 0.9
Nearly all industries in our province showed strong year-over-year
growth in wages and salaries.
Non-residential investment is expected to total 3.7 billion dollars this
year, the highest level ever recorded. Construction activity on the Vale
Inco nickel processing plant, the White Rose expansion and government
infrastructure programs are major factors behind investment spending
Population growth occurred for the first time in 16 years in 2008. This
trend has continued into 2009. From July 1, 2008 to April 1, 2009
Newfoundland and Labrador�s population was up 0.2 per cent. Not a huge
increase, but after years of out-migration we will happily take it.
And how about these stats from your own Board�s recent survey: 94 per
cent of respondents said present local economic conditions were good or
excellent; nearly half said their company�s financial position mid-way
through 2009 was better than last year; and more than half predicted
employment growth within the next year.
In a year when tourism is generally suffering everywhere else, here in
this province we are once again bucking the trend. Yesterday, our
Minister of Tourism Clyde Jackman announced that to the end of July,
stats show that our tourism industry is performing very well this year.
In fact, overall visitation has increased slightly, by almost one per
cent, over the same period last year. Traffic at provincial Visitor
Information Centres is up nine per cent.
If we can continue racking up achievements of this magnitude during a
recession, then just imagine what awaits us now that the global economy
is beginning to turn around. The sky�s the limit, my friends!
But even with our outstanding success, more than ever we need to be self
reliant and masters of our own destiny. Everyone is delighted that
Canada is coming out of the recession, but the financial reality of a
post-recession Canada is not pretty. The huge Federal deficits must be
gotten under control which will mean even greater taxes, cut backs and
overall less spending by the Federal Government.
The next decade will undertake this repayment while trying to absorb the
costs of a green world to impact climate change. Newfoundland and
Labrador is ready and poised for continued growth.
Newfoundland and Labrador must continue to be smart on its investments
in education, health care and transportation infrastructure. We need to
manage our wealth and spend our hard earned dollars wisely. We must be
competitive and innovative, but not spendthrift for political purposes.
We must stay with our plan to be an energy warehouse and embrace clean
energy solutions. We must continue to improve our marine and air links
to the province to stay up with the ever increasing demand for our
tourism product. We must streamline and rationalize our fishery so that
those who risk their lives to earn a living get a decent return for
their hard work.
Business, labour and government must work together to find just and
meaningful solutions to our common challenges, compromising where
necessary to reach consensus.
Government must partner effectively with our learning institutions � our
colleges and our university � to work together to leverage the vast
amount of knowledge and skills in all institutions for the betterment of
the half million people that live in this wonderful place.
We cannot rely upon on others outside of this province. We must rely
upon each other as we continue to chart a course of prosperity for
Newfoundland and Labrador in good times and bad. We have endured the
worst of times and learned; the best is yet to come but it is ours to
lose if we are not tenacious, vigilant and wise.
There is a new aura surrounding this place. A new confidence. A new
optimism. A renewed sense of self.
Here on this rock between Europe and America, we will be the new
Atlantis rising, a centre of a bold new resurgence of culture and
education, industry and ingenuity, wealth and promise and equality of
opportunity for all.
As I said earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is THE place to be. I plan
to spend more time getting out there and delivering our message,
promoting this great province and all of our promise, and ensuring we
continue to position our people for greatness.
To the members of the St. John�s Board of Trade I say, keep up the
excellent work. Keep believing. Keep innovating. Keep striving to be
better, always better than the day before; and there will be no turning
back. Thank you.