Work­ing for the good of N.L. a core part of MUN’s man­date

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Rob Green­wood, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Harris Cen­tre and the Of­fice of Pub­lic En­gage­ment Me­mo­rial Univer­sity

Dear Ed­i­tor, In his Dec. 5th let­ter, “A chal­lenge for the bright minds at MUN,” Ed­sel Bon­nell chal­lenges Me­mo­rial Univer­sity to take on the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges faced by New­found­land and Labrador.

He’s not out of line. Me­mo­rial is a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion serv­ing the pub­lic good. As such, I am glad that he sees us as an im­por­tant part of this dis­cus­sion. We should be, and are. It also makes sense that he men­tions the Harris Cen­tre specif­i­cally: our work is to bring clar­ity and con­text to pub­lic pol­icy and re­gional de­vel­op­ment, con­nect­ing the needs of the prov­ince with the re­sources of Me­mo­rial.

In fact, the Harris Cen­tre is work­ing to­wards a new five-year plan, with in­put from peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions all across New­found­land and Labrador. Col­lab­o­ra­tion in ser­vice of the sus­tain­abil­ity of New­found­land and Labrador is at its heart. Sup­port­ing in­formed dis­cus­sion on pub­lic pol­icy and re­gional de­vel­op­ment is part of our man­date, and so I am pleased to con­trib­ute to this dis­cus­sion.

I can at­test that the chal­lenge of work­ing to­wards so­lu­tions for provin­cial prob­lems has been read­ily, and deeply, em­braced by many at this in­sti­tu­tion, but my goal here isn’t to share a long list of how Me­mo­rial has con­trib­uted to solv­ing our col­lec­tive trou­bles.

Rather, I’d like to em­pha­size that this scale and com­plex­ity of chal­lenge de­mand so­lu­tions that are equally ex­pan­sive. To­day, the fis­cal chal­lenges our prov­ince is fac­ing are front and cen­tre for most of us, but there are a num­ber of fun­da­men­tal is­sues that are also con­tribut­ing to our dif­fi­cul­ties.

As the Harris Cen­tre’s re­cent Pop­u­la­tion Pro­ject re­port shows, ru­ral re­gions in this prov­ince are on the edge of a ma­jor change to life as they know it. Pop­u­la­tions are shrink­ing, and if we don’t plan for to­mor­row, we can pre­dict what will hap­pen.

But that’s the thing: change by it­self is neu­tral. It is nei­ther good nor bad. It’s what we make of it that’s im­por­tant. While the ini­tial part of the work of the Pop­u­la­tion Pro­ject is to sound the alarm by mod­el­ling what some com­mu­ni­ties will look like 20 years from now, we’re also work­ing with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and re­gions to come up with so­lu­tions that will work in real life.

That’s not some­thing we can do from a desk in St. John’s: it takes in­tense, long-term col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween all of the stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ments, the univer­sity, in­dus­try, so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als with an in­ter­est in shap­ing a fu­ture that will be dif­fer­ent, but sus­tain­able. We’re hope­ful that with that sort of com­pli­cated, but en­gaged, part­ner­ship, we can find a way to move for­ward.

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment will al­ways be a key agent in en­sur­ing the prov­ince re­mains sus­tain­able in the long term. But it is not alone. The univer­sity, as a pub­li­cally en­gaged in­sti­tu­tion, can con­trib­ute a lot, in­clud­ing big ideas, ded­i­cated re­searchers, fa­cil­i­ties, ca­pa­ble and en­gaged stu­dents, and a man­dated com­mit­ment to bet­ter­ing life in New­found­land and Labrador. But once again, we’re just a piece of the puz­zle. It will re­quire the com­bined ef­forts of ev­ery­one in this prov­ince to work our way out of our cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties.

As our pres­i­dent and vicechan­cel­lor, Gary Kachanoski, em­pha­sized in a re­cent speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade, this univer­sity takes its special obli­ga­tion to the peo­ple of New­found­land and Labrador se­ri­ously. We are com­mit­ted to this place, and stand ready, and pre­pared, to work with gov­ern­ment, busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety to tackle the ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing the prov­ince at this cru­cial time in our his­tory.

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