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First ever Atlantic Economic Forum has leaders looking to act in the present to change the future

By Joe Thomson Jun 22, 2023 | 11:54 AM

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney introduces Justin Trudeau at the opening night of the Atlantic economic forum (Photo by Joe Thomson).

Optimism for Atlantic Canada is high following the inaugural Atlantic economic Forum, which came to a close yesterday in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Frank McKenna, the former premier of New Brunswick, helped organize the forum and was pleased with how politicians, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and more were able to come together and discuss ways to grow the region’s economy.

“I just found an amazing chemistry, real electricity in the air, and all four provinces all want to work together. Everybody is celebrating our momentum, the fact that we’re doing so much better than we were before. So now we’re looking ahead to the next steps, what we can take to move it to the next level, and people are talking about [us] in ways that wouldn’t be imaginable 10 years ago,” said McKenna.

Panels throughout the forum discussed Atlantic Canada’s universities and their potential to drive economic performance, immigration as a solution to labour shortages, housing challenges and solutions, the future of green energy in the region and more.

Goldy Hyder, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada, gave the opening remarks for a session about realizing economic potential in Atlantic Canada. He praised the East Coast’s ability to cooperate and learn from Indigenous communities in the economic sector.

“I think the people of the Maritimes and the relationships that I think you’ve been able to have constructively with the indigenous communities, as partners in growth and in investing in your future, that’s not something that happens easily across the rest of this country,” said Hyder.

That sentiment was echoed on Wednesday morning during a panel about Indigenous businesses and their impact on economic development in the region. The panel was moderated by Jarvis Googoo, the director of the Atlantic Indigenous Economic Development Integrated Research Program.

He said that he is grateful for any chance to collaborate and share ideas on how Indigenous people can grow the economy, but he’s looking to see what comes next.

“We can go further… we heard a lot of great things here today. Let’s action on them,” said Googoo.

The forum was the brainchild of Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova and a StFX alum. He along with McKenna and the rest of the organizer, brought the forum to life.

Fraser says there’s plenty of lessons from it that he will be taking back to Ottawa.

“I think one of the overarching themes is that we are ready for growth in Atlantic Canada. We’ve got the talent that we need, we’ve got the resources that we need, we’ve got a strong policy base that grew out of the Atlantic growth strategy, and it’s time to wave the flag,” said Fraser.


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