By David Sorensen
Memorial University will play a crucial role as the
new government moves to develop the provincial economy, according
to the sociology professor assigned to assist that growth.
Dr. Doug House was appointed deputy minister of the Department
of Industry, Trade and Rural Development on Jan. 20. In an
interview with the Gazette
, Dr. House said the university
is essential to a knowledge-based economy.
extremely important that the university be seen as
a resource and gear itself up to take an active role
in helping with the economic development of the province.”
“We need to recognize in this province that we are now
in – it’s not a matter of going to be –
we are now in a knowledge-based economy,” said Dr. House.
“And what’s the most important institution in
the province for generating knowledge and people with expertise?
It’s Memorial University of Newfoundland. So it’s
extremely important that the university be seen as a resource
and gear itself up to take an active role in helping with
the economic development of the province.”
Dr. House said the agencies affiliated with Memorial —
such as Genesis Centre, P. J. Gardiner Institute for Small
Business and the Centre for Regional Development Studies —
have significant roles to play.
“One of the issues that we have here, and one of the
reasons the premier has put me in here, is [to determine]
how we get that expertise out to all different parts of the
province. It’s easy enough in St. John’s for people
to get access to Memorial and its resources. It’s much
more difficult in other parts of the province but we’ve
got to find out the ways to do that.”
Acknowledging that the province’s current financial
situation will hamper its ability to recruit graduates in
the short-term, Dr. House said the provincial government will
need to hire Memorial graduates when its situation improves.
“The most important resource we’ve got to get
mobilized in support of what we’re trying to do is the
bright young people in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Dr. House said the main responsibility of his new position
is to manage the department on a day-to-day basis, and to
work on policy with other senior officials and the minister
of Industry Kathy Dunderdale.
“The big challenge for our department is — we’ve
got certain human resources, certain financial resources,
certain programs and services — how do we make sure
that those are being used effectively in order to support
economic development initiatives from different people in
the province?” he said.
“Government officials don’t do economic development
themselves. They provide the setting and the support services
to help, whether it be small businesses in rural Newfoundland
or large industries wanting to set up a branch plant operation
in this province. Our job is to smooth the way for those things
to work effectively.”
For example, his department is trying to develop a working
group with industry organizations such as the Newfoundland
Alliance of Technical Industries to get their input on how
the province could help those industries succeed. “We’re
trying to get all these different players working together
to help develop this sector in our economy.”
Aside from working with different sectors of the economy,
Dr. House said his department will work with different regions
of the province.
“One of the things that I want to do, and the minister
wants to do is to get west of the overpass. We’ve got
to get out there in the different regions and meet with the
people and see how things are working on the ground, at the
Premier Danny Williams said it is Dr. House’s experience
in economic development and his understanding of rural issues
that made him the right fit for this posting.
“Government’s agenda is very much focused on improving
our fiscal circumstances,” said Mr. Williams. “While
this involves tightening our expenditure belt, it also means
a heavy reliance on growing our economy. Dr. House’s
strategic advice will assist government in identification
of growth sectors and implementation of appropriate short
and long term measures to improve the province’s economy
Dr. House has been appointed to a four-year term. He said
it will take a couple of months to get settled in his new
role, and it will be the next fiscal year before you can hope
to see results. “I would say a year from now things
will be quite different than they are now.”
Dr. House has been a professor in the sociology department
at Memorial University of Newfoundland since 1975. During
his academic career, he has served as head of sociology and
research director of the Institute of Social and Economic
Dr. House holds the degrees of BA (Hons.) from Memorial University,
MA from Oxford University (which he attended as Newfoundland’s
Rhodes Scholar) and PhD from McGill University. He is the
author of six books and more than a hundred articles, papers
and reports. His previous experience with the public service
includes chair of the Royal Commission on Employment and Unemployment
(1985-86), chair of the Economic Recovery Commission (1989-96),
chair of the Board of Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador
Corporation (1989-1993), and provincial co-chair of the Task
Force on Community Economic Development (1994-95).
He was a key contributor to Building on Our Strengths: The
Report of the Royal Commission on Employment and Unemployment
(1986), Change and Challenge: A Strategic Economic Plan for
Newfoundland and Labrador (1992), and Community Matters: The
New Regional Economic Development in Newfoundland and Labrador-Report
of the Task Force on Community Economic Development (1995).
For the two years leading up to the recent provincial election,
Dr. House served in a part-time capacity as a policy advisor
to the Office of the Official Opposition.