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Big questions

Examining economic sustainability in a post oil-dependent N.L.

Research |

By Jeff Green

Organizers of a symposium taking place on the St. John’s campus are looking east and west for lessons in how other regions have survived economic downturns.

Asking the Big Questions: What Might a Sustainable Post Oil-Dependent Newfoundland and Labrador Look Like and What Kinds of Skills, Expertise, Infrastructure and Institutions Do We Need to Get There? takes place Nov. 1-4.

Numerous events

The symposium is being presented by the Royal Society of Canada Atlantic and Memorial University.

A pair of public lectures, with keynote speakers from Alberta and Iceland, a screening of a new award-winning documentary written by alumna and CBC journalist Angela Antle and a workshop frame the symposium.

An illustration of an oil rig in icy conditions.
An illustration of an oil rig in icy conditions.
Photo: Karly Barker

Dr. Barbara Neis, University Research Professor in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, says the events will try and address important issues facing our province.

“The focus of this symposium will be on imagining a future province that is socially, economically and environmentally resilient, as well as inclusive of all groups,” she said.

“We are inviting everyone involved, including academics, visiting and local, and community leaders, to imagine a sustainable, post oil-dependent province and to help us outline the broad elements of a program for getting us from here to there.”

Documentary screening

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m., there will be a screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary Atlantic, written by Ms. Antle. The screening is co-sponsored by the St. John’s International Film Festival and the People and the Sea Film Festival. Atlantic follows the fortunes of three small fishing communities — in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland and Labrador — bringing to the fore three very intimate stories from the global resource debate. The screening takes place in room C-2004 in the Chemistry-Physics building. Parking is available in lot 15B.

Icelandic perspective

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m., Dr. Sigurbjörg (Silla) Sigurgeirsdóttir, associate professor, Public Policy and Governance, University of Iceland, will discuss the collapse of the Icelandic economy, steps taken to rebuild and lessons for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Her talk is titled After the Storm: A Post-Crisis Political Economy in Iceland, Natural Resources and Sustainable Public Policies. Ms. Antle will moderate.

Dr. Sigurbjörg (Silla) Sigurgeirsdóttir
Dr. Sigurbjörg (Silla) Sigurgeirsdóttir
Photo: Submitted

“Until the mid-20th century, Iceland was among the poorest countries in Western Europe. At the end of the century, Iceland had become a highly developed economy,” said Dr. Sigurgeirsdóttir.

“The country is rich in natural resources. Cold water fishing, although vulnerable to fluctuations, has been the backbone of the economy for decades. Hydroelectric power and geothermal energy have been abundant and make up an increasing share of export value through energy-intensive aluminium processing.

“My talk will address the competing interests, views and values characterizing the rebuilding of the economy after the financial collapse in which the battle of Iceland has intensified as a battle between access to the country’s natural resources and transparent, sustainable public policies.”

Dr. Sigurgeirsdóttir’s lecture takes place in the Suncor Energy Hall in the School of Music from 7-9 p.m. Parking is available in lot 15B.

Special performance

Dr. Nancy Dahn and Prof. Timothy Steeves
Dr. Nancy Dahn and Prof. Timothy Steeves
Photo: Chris Hammond

Prior to Dr. Sigurgeirsdóttir’s discussion, Dr. Nancy Dahn and Prof. Timothy Steeves, professors, School of Music, who perform together as the award-winning Duo Concertante, and who were recently named fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, will deliver a short recital. Reception to follow lecture.

Notes from Alberta

Dr. Gordon Laxer
Dr. Gordon Laxer
Photo: Submitted

On Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m., keynote speaker Dr. Gordon Laxer, professor emeritus, University of Alberta, and author of After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians, will examine Alberta’s history of oil dependence and attempts to diversify the economy and draw lessons for Newfoundland and Labrador. His talk is titled Drawing Lessons from Alberta’s Oil Dependence.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has been an oil-dependent region for a much shorter time than Alberta,” noted Dr. Laxer. “But the international oil price collapse two years ago hit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians harder in many ways than it did Albertans.

“Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have responded to the international oil price collapse in different ways,” he added. “The Alberta NDP government of Rachel Notley has maintained public services through massive deficit financing, whereas Newfoundland and Labrador’s government has slashed public services in an approach reminiscent of previous Alberta Conservative governments including that of Ralph Klein.”

Dr. Laxer’s lecture takes place in room SN-2109 in the Science building from 7-9 p.m. Parking is available in lot 15B. Reception to follow.

Symposium workshop

On Friday, Nov. 4, symposium organizers are hosting a multi-stakeholder workshop with members of the university community and those from the wider community. The workshop is taking place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., in the Junior Common Room in R. Gushue Hall and will discuss a draft policy paper on the symposium themes. Those interested in learning more, can email bneis@mun.ca.

More information about all events is available online.

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