Business leaders mull benefits of regional co-operation2/4/2013
What’s the one thing you can do to help increase regional co-operation in Atlantic Canada?
That was the overarching question posed to the 200 or so business leaders who gathered in downtown Halifax on Friday to discuss the importance of breaking down regional barriers, building partnerships and entering the global market.
With $100 billion worth of projects on the books for the region over the next five to eight years, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council president Elizabeth Beale and the four participating panellists agreed that that translates into 100 billion reasons to push for greater regional co-operation.
Shannon MacDonald, a managing partner at Deloitte, said although every province in Atlantic Canada is unique, each cannot afford to work individually.
Finding the so-called sweet spot of collaboration and competition is key to capitalizing on opportunities.
“The global audience is worried about our regional boundaries and they see these opportunities too, so we need to be just as globally savvy and competitive to seize these opportunities on our doorstep,” MacDonald said in an interview Friday.
“The projects in question range in variety but there’s an opportunity there to get the right talent in the right places, and that’s where co-operation comes in.”
Although it’s important to recognize the barriers to regional collaboration, MacDonald and fellow panellists Cathy Bennett, CEO of the Bennett Group of Companies Inc., National Public Relations partner Kim West and Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board director Jo Mark Zurel agreed that at a time when the region is facing a rapidly aging population and dwindling tax base, talk of such obstacles paralyzes every-one.
“There’s a lot of armchair critics out there and that’s not helping,” West said during the panel discussion.
“We’re all looking for strong political leadership … but waiting won’t help us now and we can’t let this moment pass.”
Bennett agreed, adding that too often trade barriers or government restrictions are looked at as insurmountable obstacles, not just bumps in the road.
“For me, it’s always been, ‘OK, if I can’t do it this way, then how?’” she said.
“There has to be an accountability to participate at every level, not just business and government. If you’re worried about leaving the province, then do something about it. If you’re worried about your kids leaving, then do something about keeping your kids here.”
(The Chronicle Herald)