Memorial University, integral in the completion of the Royal
Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada,
will also prove crucial if the report’s recommendations
are to be enacted, explained commission chair Vic Young.
The Royal Commission was announced in the March 2003 throne
speech by Premier Roger Grimes. The commission was mandated
to conduct a critical assessment of Newfoundland and Labrador’s
strengths and weaknesses and to bring forward recommendations
as to how the province can renew and strengthen its place
Shortly after the commission was constituted, it met with
a round table of Memorial researchers to explore a research
program. The resulting collection of reports, analyses and
opinion forms a major component of the commission’s
work, said Dr. Young.
“The research program had two very important roles,”
he said. “First, it stands on its own. It has intrinsic
value for the short, medium and long term, on its own.
“As well, it was extremely helpful to the commission.”
Researchers from Memorial would prepare a majority of the
papers in the research program. (A complete list of papers
can be found at www.gov.nf.ca/royalcomm/research/default.html).
The research also had a profound effect on the final report,
added Dr. Young. He pointed to the example of fish stock conservation
and fisheries science.
“We looked to one of the finest fisheries scientists
in the world, Dr. George Rose (Memorial’s research chair
in fisheries conservation),” he said. “He wrote
a fabulous paper on fish conservation, on the organization
of fishery research, on the importance of fishery research.
It stands entirely on its own, but very much influenced our
“The research was absolutely essential to the commission’s
work and findings.”
In addition to the research program, the commission gathered
information from hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,
through public hearings, written submissions and visits to
“We had some really good meetings with students and
heard their views,” said Dr. Young. “We also had
several classes at Memorial that did projects on their own
which they subsequently submitted to the commission. The three
commissioners were visiting lecturers from time to time.”
The commission met with Dr. Meisen early in the process and
the university administration also submitted a report to the
Dr. Young said the commissioners left the writing of the report
until after all these hearings and submissions. He said this
was the wrong thing to do from a scheduling point of view,
but the only way to give weight to all the commissioners heard.
He said the completed report would not resemble a report that
the three commissioners would have compiled when they started
Education, and specifically postsecondary education, was featured
prominently in final report. The report recommends the federal
government increase its investment in education. It also suggests
Memorial continue to develop faculty incentives geared to
achieving local collaboration and establish a research centre
to study the knowledge economy.
The report also states that “by adopting allocation
measures for research funding more sensitive to the particular
strengths and mandates of universities, the federal government
can ensure the optimal use of research funding and its contribution
to research, development and innovation in the Newfoundland
and Labrador economy.”
Memorial president Dr. Axel Meisen said the Royal Commission
produced “a good, well balanced report which defines
the key issues. As such, it provides a good basis for addressing
The report indicates that education, research and partnerships
will remain essential to the province's success, areas that
fall into Memorial University's mandate.
“The commissioners recognize the importance of Memorial
University,” said Dr. Meisen. “I am pleased that
the university could assist the commission with its work and
we will continue to provide our support as action is taken
on the recommendations of the commission.”
While acknowledging a degree of negativity surrounding the
report’s release, Dr. Young said the commissioners have
“a high level of confidence” some of the key recommendations
will be implemented. “People say ‘why would the
prime minister and the premier set up an urgent action team
on the stock rebuilding team?’ What we say back is …
‘how can they not set up that action committee.’
“When we see the cynicism and the skepticism and the
negativity, if you were discouraged by that, we would have
packed it in the first week. So you have to be driven by that;
that this report may help overcome that which needs to be
overcome for this to be a successful province and a successful
part of Canada.”
All of the recommendations will be reassessed in June 2005.
All three commissioners – Dr. Young, Elizabeth Davis
and James Igloliorte – are Memorial University graduates,
and all were awarded honorary degrees.