HomeWorking Together for Progress and Prosperity

Working Together for Progress and Prosperity

May 26 2004

by Tim Banks

Prince Edward Island is a great place to live. Our Province offers a quality of life that is unparalleled in Canada or the rest of the World. Our environment, our scenery, our heritage, our people all contribute to a wonderful community that I am very proud to be a part of. It is my dream that the Island will continue to grow and prosper and that all Islanders will participate in making our community an even better place to live in the future. I have some specific ideas of how we can make this happen. While these ideas may appear to be unrelated thoughts, in reality, they are all connected to each other. To appreciate these connections, we must look at the Big Picture. Indeed, the first step toward progress and prosperity is developing a broad perspective of the world and the issues we face. Equipped with a broad perspective, we can have an understanding of what we need to do to reach our goals.

Attitude. Looking at the Big Picture and developing a broad perspective involves a change in attitude about ourselves, about others, about our place in the World, about our expectations of government, about our capabilities. We must drop our parochial worldview and realize that we are a part of the global economy, competing and trading with players, both local and international, and dealing with local economic levers that affect and are affected by a large variety of outside factors.

We must develop a belief in our capabilities in our core industries like agriculture, fisheries and tourism. But we must also seek out new opportunities, developing a spirit of innovation in business strategies and new technologies.

We must become focussed on Service and Delivery. In order to compete in the global economy, we must provide the best level of service and delivery possible in our businesses. If we want to do business with the rest of the World, we must demonstrate our willingness to do so.

We must welcome Americans, Europeans, Asians and everyone from the rest of the World. Building walls has a more negative effect on us than it does on those on the outside.

Government and Business. We are fortunate on PEI to have control over important jurisdictional levers that affect our economy. But we must clearly communicate to our Provincial Government how to exercise this control.

Governments should not be about being "in business"; its about facilitating business growth and nurturing business skills to help Island companies compete. Whether its golf courses, shopping malls, waste management facilities, industrial parks, technology centres, and on and on, governments should stop competing with private enterprise and sell. Instead of running businesses, governments should be investng in programs that develop a spirit of enterprise and a spirit of community. Then, the marketplace would not only be free of public sector inefficiencies, but Island businesses would also gain strength and improve their competitiveness.

Politicians must stop micro-managing mistakes. Opposition is not about grandstanding but rather providing advice and ideas in the public interest. We must set aside political, religious and community differences in order to move forward. Government misadventures in business, such as Pratt & Whitney and MacKay & Hughes, should serve as political and business examples from which we can learn. The unfortunate situation with Polar Foods is only further polarized by agonizing over details. Highlighting private business issues in public debate only serves to tarnish the image of business on PEI, causing bankers and other investors to shy away from our provincial business environment. Another recent example of this is the Agra West project in Souris. The provincial Liberals tried to beat it to death, but several years later, the business is still open and employing many Islanders.

Now is the right time for the current Government to implement one of its old promises. In the Speech from the Throne of November 15, 2001, the Government sought to establish a Premier's Task Group on Economic Opportunity comprised of 12 creative and innovative Island business leaders, reporting directly to the Premier on new means to create wealth and employ Islanders. To date, no such group has met. However, a new economic direction for the Island is clearly needed right now and engaging business leaders to get involved in setting such a course is exactly the right approach.

Cooperation. We have the abilities, ambitions, resources and needs in our community that enable us to reach for our dreams and build our society. If there is anything I have learned in business, it is that anything is possible through ingenuity, hard work and working together as a community. To borrow an expression, we need to think globally, but act locally.

We need to recognize that we are part of a close-knit community. While business, by nature, involves competition, there are ways that businesses can work together on the Island. This could mean partnering on specific projects or joining in industry associations for a common cause. It could also mean discussing innovative technologies or strategies or simply buying local products from local producers or local manufacturers. We need not be afraid dealing with competitors. If Island businesses, including those in direct competition with each other, are strong, that means the overall provincial economy is strong and Islanders are working. This makes our province better able to compete nationally and globally.

We must find ways to keep young people engaged on the Island as positive contributors to our community and, at the same time, encourage young people to pursue their ambitions and ideas here on the Island. I believe that everyone has unlimited potential to help improve our society. If we can unlock the potential of our youth while at the same building sufficient economic activity and structure to slowly grow our working population, our community will continue to thrive for years to come.

Business leaders need to mentor young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities within their businesses and by providing guidance for young entrepreneurs trying to innovate and establish new businesses. By bringing young Islanders into the business community, we can develop a tradition of business spirit on the Island and, at the same time, strengthen our business capabilities in the current economic climate. Our vision of the Island can be passed on to subsequent generations of entrepreneurs who, having learned from the past, can continue to build on and improve this vision.

The approach I have set out may not be an easy undertaking, but we cannot shy away from having Big Dreams. The alternative is to face the loss of the society that our forefathers and now we have worked so hard to build. By Dreaming Big Dreams for our community, we can achieve Big Things. We can have a strong economy with many rewarding jobs and vibrant businesses. We can have progress and prosperity now and in the future if we strive vigorously to get it.

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