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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

July 10, 2003
 News

Memorial essential
to Royal Commission report

 


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 in Canada.

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 report.

“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 schools.

“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 commission.

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 the process.

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 them.”
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.

 


 


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Next issue: July 24, 2003

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