Asking the Big Questions

Asking the Big Questions: What might a sustainable post oil-dependent Newfoundland and Labrador look like and what kinds of skills, expertise, infrastructure and institutions do we need to get there?

Presented by the Royal Society of Canada (Atlantic) and Memorial University

In only a few short decades Newfoundland and Labrador has become heavily dependent on oil and gas investments through royalties, direct and indirect employment (in this province and others such as Alberta), and related remittances of wages to the province. This dependency has helped support public investments in health, education and transportation, and encouraged a housing boom in both urban and some rural regions of the province. Nationally and locally, it has influenced priorities in research funding, education and training. The dependency has also created deep vulnerabilities as evidenced by the current fiscal crisis in Newfoundland and Labrador triggered in part by the collapse in oil and gas prices, growing unemployment, and other challenges. At a global level, the relationship between oil and gas and climate change is a major source of vulnerability that directly affects the environmental sustainability of many coastal communities in the region.

The focus of this dialogue/event will be on imagining a future province that is socially, economically and environmentally resilient as well as inclusive of all groups.

Tuesday Nov. 1

7 p.m. - Film Screening: Atlantic (written by Angela Antle)

Location: C 2004 Chemistry and Physics Building

Narrated by Emmy-award winning actor Brendan Gleeson, Atlantic follows the fortunes of three small fishing communities – in Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland – as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of mounting economic and ecological challenges. Written by Angela Antle. Sponsored by the St. John’s Women’s Film Festival and the People in the Sea Film Festival.

Wednesday Nov. 2

7 to 9 p.m. – Suncor Energy Hall School of Music 

“After the Storm: A post-crisis political economy in Iceland, natural resources and sustainable public policies"

Keynote address by Sigurbjörg (Silla) Sigurgeirsdóttir, an associate professor of public policy and governance at the Department of Political Science, University of Iceland. Moderated by Angela Antle. Prior to the presentation Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves, who perform together as Duo Concertante and were recently named Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, will deliver a short recital prior to the discussion.

Since 1991, Iceland has been adapting liberal economic policies with the combination of a conservative fiscal policy and a simple taxation system. Over the period 1990 to 1999 Iceland’s real GDP average growth rate was 2.3%, 4.1% in the period 2000 to 2008, peaking at 7.7% and 7.5% in 2004 and 2005 when the economic boom was gaining speed. It reached bottom in 2010, falling to -4%, leaving the country’s financial balance at -10.1% of GDP. In the context of recent development, the lecture presented at the Memorial University in St. John´s will bring out a picture of a post-crisis democratic society experiencing shifts in the political economy after 2008. It addresses the competing interests, views and values characterizing the rebuilding of the economy after the financial collapse in which the battle of Iceland has intensified as a battle between access to the country´s natural resources and transparent, sustainable public policies.

Thursday Nov. 3

7 to 9 p.m. - Science Building SN 2019

"Drawing lessons from Alberta’s oil dependence"

Keynote address by Gordon Laxter, a political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and the author of After the Sands. Energy & Ecological Security for Canadians.

Newfoundland & Labrador has been an oil dependent region for a much shorter time than Alberta. But the international oil price collapse two years ago hit Newfoundlanders harder in many ways than it did Albertans. Will the current drop in oil exploration, revenues and jobs in each province be temporary lulls in a familiar boom / bust pattern or will it be the start of voluntary or forced transitions to low carbon futures?


Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

230 Elizabeth Ave

St. John's, NL A1B 3X9 CANADA

Tel: (709) 864-2530

Fax: (709) 864-2552