Premier disappointed Grenfell not doing more to drive economy

Cory Hurley
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Significant investment in things like Grenfell Campus of Memorial University was supposed to grow the economy of western Newfoundland.

In three terms of public office there were many accomplishments for Tom Marshall, but he admits to having some struggles.

The current premier and MHA for Humber East says he set out with a goal to better the lives of the people of Corner Brook and the surrounding area.

With things such as a new courthouse, long-term care facilities, significant investment in Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, a new regional hospital, there were times people accused government of overspending in the districts of this area.

“It was catching up,” Marshall said of those investments.

Government spending is one thing, but the investment was supposed to fuel the economy, says Marshall. Preparing to leave politics after nearly 11 years, he said he is disappointed in the level of development through the private sector in western Newfoundland.

He said public objection to private sector development stopped growth.

Many people see Grenfell Campus, Memorial University as a stimulus to grow the economy of western Newfoundland. With young professionals and students, there is the intelligence to spark research and development.

Marshall expected that would lead to private sector growth, with students being a catalyst for both economic and social development in the region.

“I wanted to see the university inculcate in those students the entrepreneurial factor — to take a chance, to build something, to invest,” he said.  

Instead, what he says he has seen from faculty and students has been considerable opposition to projects. Two of the more known areas have been with hydraulic fracking and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. The controversial methods of mining oil and tire-derived oil were both met with public scrutiny and opposition.

It’s not that projects have stalled completely, he said, but that the private sector could be generating a lot more.

“We have tremendous programs to help, but if the people don’t want it, it makes it difficult.”

Marshall was also critical of the opposition, saying their argument was not based on a full appreciation of the science and evidence.

“I support economic development, but only if it can be done within a framework that protects the environment and the health and safety of the workers,” he said, adding people need to be more welcoming of private investment, which will in turn create jobs.

“I believe, if there was no paper mill here today and somebody wanted to put a paper mill there, it would never happen.”

Grenfell’s role

Antony Card, Grenfell’s associate vice-president of research, said the administration’s goal is also for Grenfell to be an economic driver.

Within their areas of expertise, he says, the university campus is connected to local industry. Environmental, artistic, forestry and agriculture are fields in which Grenfell has made particular strides, he says, through such things as Campus City Connect — a post-secondary partnership with Grenfell, Academy Canada and the College of the North Atlantic and the City of Corner Brook.

A good example is the creation of the Boreal Ecosystem Research Institute (BERI). Card said Grenfell has spent $8.1 million to build labs with cutting-edge equipment to drive agriculture, which he called a “game changer” for the campus and the west coast.

He also said the business faculty is more connected and there are some small-scale developments in relation to the oil and gas sector.

As for the opposition of particular projects or developments, Card said Grenfell allows its professors the freedom to express their views and research publicly. An example is the Environmental Policy Institute, which will present science-based views.

“They are not lobbyists,” he said. “There is a difference between a scientist and a lobbyist, and that’s where we see ourselves positioned. Individuals have their rights to say what they feel on particular issues.”

Nalcor not the enemy

Marshall is also bewildered by the response and reaction to Nalcor throughout the province. He refers to it as the people’s energy company.

It was established to take the province’s energy and create the cheapest energy at the lowest rates for the people, the premier says. It would then use the surplus energy to generate revenue for the province. Through oil and gas, he says, Nalcor will fund services and build infrastructure, he says.

“I find some people are treating Nalcor as some sort of enemy that they have to be protected against,” he said. “Nalcor is us. If Nalcor does well, the people of the province will do well.”

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Boreal Ecosystem Research Institute, Academy Canada Environmental Policy Institute

Geographic location: Humber East, Corner Brook, Newfoundland Corner Brook.A

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Recent comments

  • Really Now
    August 11, 2014 - 09:33

    Ironically, it's the conservative government that has appointed most of those people at the head of "Grenfell". The other thing that should be noted here is that there is ZERO economic development taking place, in large part because of another entity - the City of Corner Brook - that is once again, filled with Conservative supporters (Pender et al). Until businesses are allowed to open, resource development allowed to happen & people encouraged to start diversifying the West Coast economy, there will be no economic development. One major project that isn't happening is the Beothuk Industry - 800 jobs for the area but it won't happen because the Government doesn't want competition for Muskrat Falls & the City of Corner Brook would rather see the port go unutilized. Get real Marshall, don't let the door hit you in the butt when you leave.

  • Anon
    August 10, 2014 - 19:12

    The role of university research is supposed to provide citizens with the skills and means to be objective, critical and compassionate about issues that are important to us. To this end, and from what I observed personally during the debates about fracking and the Corner Brook Lake project, was that those that were behind the protests of these projects were 'not' providing objective, critical, compassionate and science-based information. Rather, it was 'mis-information' that was ideologically-based. To Grenfell's defense, there were only a few faculty members behind this - a significant minority of those who are working hard to solve regional issues. Much of the protest movement here comes from a segment of the public that is 'affiliated' with Grenfell in one form or another, but do 'not' represent the research community there. These are people who simply protest things for the sake of protesting (...and on the backs of government dollars). So what is their ideology? They simply do not trust government or the free market economy in any form, and especially the natural resource industry - sustainable or not. All this to the detriment of new and viable economic and social development opportunities that could be had for this region - which is very badly needed. For those of us who are looking for a balanced, objective and fair process for deciding on these types of issues, next time they are out there - we need to put them on the stand equally along with government and industry so that their propaganda isn't simply taken for granted. They too need to be held accountable for the impact that their mis-information has on our region and people. (PS. The fact that I have to post this as 'Anon' should say something in itself - I fear what some of these people would do if they knew who was writing this!)

  • Andy Aguathuna
    August 09, 2014 - 16:16

    Putting a small liberal arts university in a small town guarantees that the place will attract and retain a full load of myopic, self-entitled reactionaries, calling themselves liberals but dedicated to a comfortable socialist life, well paid by our public purse. Corner Brook has thes types ,in scores, as do other West Coast towns, with industrial revival through an on-shore oil industry regarded by these dilettantes in the same light as a public sector wage freeze or an embargo on faculty tenure.

  • Susan
    August 08, 2014 - 06:33

    @ BestCoast, Stagnant Economy, Are you asking us to trade of our health for " Fracking " , If that the case, Its not a hospital we will be needing, just more " Coffins" . Who every you are, Your just plain " Sick ". Go back where you came from.

  • BestCoast, Stagnant Economy
    August 07, 2014 - 16:40

    I'm a business owner who moved to the west coast for it's beauty and outdoor pursuits. I just wish there was a business case for me to invest here. I do not proclaim to have all the answers, but the business world will not be coming anytime soon. People still expect services such as healthcare, education and other services, yet the the flat economy will only see erosion of it's local population and reduced need for these services. Many economists would agree that the economy is based on on natural resource development, and with a resource rich province and region, we should welcome these prospects. And while I support the idea of independent reviews & environmental watch dogs, unless you are going to personally fund these stewarts, you must put some faith in the governments safeguards. And now ask yourself, how many people do you know, friends or family or neighbours, that happily bring home their paycheques from natural resource based industries from other parts of this province, this country or abroad? Have you shunned them?

  • Scott
    August 07, 2014 - 12:31

    I can recall, one time listening to Randy Simms on Back Talk, trying to explain to the people. If we wanted the smartest and the brightest, its going to cost us money, for those people. In Government. Randy look like I got bad news for you. We having gotten them. According to comments, I just finish reading from this article. Mr Marshall want fracking along with Dwight Ball. The person who offering any solution for our economy is Murphy.

  • David
    August 07, 2014 - 10:36

    Isn't it funny how the loudest commenters against the Government are always the Bleeding hearts, the academics, and the arts crowd ... all people who work and live off the government handouts???? Can someone not living off government comment please??? Marshall got a point here and it's not that academics are not entitled to their opinions.

  • Dianne
    August 07, 2014 - 05:54

    @ Jack, by any chance did either of your comments, contain the word " Hate" ? Jack no need to read between the lines, just come out and say it. No double talk, leave that to our politicians. Or are you running for office?

  • Charles Murphy
    August 07, 2014 - 05:26

    Were shipping in almost a " Billion " dollars of products each year to our province, which can be produce and manufactured right here at home, putting some 32000 people to work. all we need is some one to bring us to the next step. Riches province in Canada, and the only thing were lacking is Leadership. Lately our politicians are talking about how their going to build our economy, But for some reason, every time I ask how. I get no response. Lets take the mill in corner brook, that plant should be turning out the 20 million dollars of products we ship in each year, putting more people to work in the mill and forestry. Then the mill in Grand Falls, should be up and running turning out another 100 million dollars of products we ship in. more people working. Take the pellet plant on the Great Northern Pen, that facility should be turning out four difference products, not one. Fish plant in Jacksons Arm should be turning out 7 millions dollars of products, then Marystown fish plant another 21 million dollars of products, the list go on and on, Next time someone is looking for your vote, Ask that person one question, Where do they see the economy in your district? if they give you a song and dance, say good day to that person.

  • Joe
    August 06, 2014 - 17:40

    I had some of my best years at Grenfell, from 2002-2005, setting out on my path in life, naive and idealistic, Corner Brook was a great first step. That said, a lot of people quickly out grow Corner Brook and similar small, isolated towns. Young people would be more inclined to stay if the benefits of our resources trickled down to the larger population. Looks at municipalities, roads are cracked up, sidewalks hard to find, public transit poor or non existent. It's hard to feel proud or opimistic about such a place. I certainly wouldn't bet my life savings on a business in western Newfoundland, when it seems like not even the gov't is willing to do the same.

  • Just sayin'
    August 06, 2014 - 17:12

    This might turn into a little ditty 'bout Jack and Dianne...

    • Bill
      August 07, 2014 - 09:44


  • Dianne
    August 06, 2014 - 15:16

    @ Jack, to bad your mother never taught you some " Manners ", To hate someone, is another way of saying, wish they were " Dead".

    • Jack
      August 06, 2014 - 19:02

      Dianne, I'm more than appalled at your comment for saying that I wish Corner Brookers are dead. I didn't say that at all. What I said is that "Corner Brook's enemy is Corner Brook itself" themselves or "Corner Brookers are their own Worst Enemy". These comments are based on my observations of this city ever since I moved to Corner Brook from Halifax almost six years ago. In fact, ever since I moved to the Corner Brook area almost six years ago, Corner Brook City Council, especially under the Neville Greeley era, created a terrible business climate as one aspiring entrepreneur or company trying to make this city an economically better place are shown the door, and Corner Brook is now paying the price for it even under new leadership. Another reason are that existing residents are not welcome to new ideas such as burning tires for fuel at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, mineral exploration at Corner Brook Lake, the Modular Home Plant, just to name a few. These City Council and City imposed barriers make attracting new employers in Corner Brook harder and harder. From now one Dianne, please read between the lines and look at the truth behind my statements before making false accusations or judgements against me.

  • brad
    August 06, 2014 - 14:06

    How about reality,the flights west are only becoming busier,and that's precisely where most of those students are going.A (city)cant just survive with government jobs with the mill and hospital being 1 and 2 on that list

  • Jack
    August 06, 2014 - 13:11

    Another reason why Corner Brook is suffering from economic stagnation programs is poor and unreliable transit system. In fact, Corner Brook Transit no longer provide evening and weekend service. Even with a fresh new government under Charles Pender, Corner Brook City Council don't seem willing to change. Provide better infrastructure and conditions for growth, including better public transit, and welcome entrepreneurs with open arms, and maybe things will get better for Corner Brook. Otherwise, my mom was right all along in saying that "Corner Brook's enemy is Corner Brook itself".

  • Jack
    August 06, 2014 - 13:08

    After reading this article about Grenfell Campus - Memorial University not doing more to drive Western Newfoundland's economy, as much as I hate the Progressive Conservative Party, Tom Marshall is absolutely right in saying that Western Newfoundlanders, particularly Corner Brookers, are the reasons why private sector growth and investment have stalled. In the past, Corner Brookers and/or Corner Brook City Council and their red tape heavy ways have resulted in many aspiring entrepreneurs being shown the door as opposed to welcoming them with open arms to help grow the city's economy. For example, during the Neville Greeley era, Corner Brook City Council rejected many entrepreneurs and their businesses including the John's Point Subdivision, the Teen Dance Hall, Modular Home Plant, Trailer Park, and yes, even a Costco. The straw that broke the camel's back for Corner Brook was public opposition to mineral exploration at Corner Brook Lake, which now creates a perception this Western Newfoundland city is not open for business. Massey Drive has now caught the Corner Brook Bug in showing aspiring entrepreneurs the door, notably Nicole Marsden and her Animal Grooming Business. To add insult to injury, Mayor Gord Davis and Massey Drive Town Council are acting like poor sports in not honouring judicial and municipal appeal rulings, referring to "The Western Star" news story entitled "New Massey Drive resident fighting denial of home business permit". Ironically, Gord Davis is a business owner himself, being a part owner of "Corner Brook Centre Bowl". For a business owner, Mr. Davis should know better than to show aspiring entrepreneurs the door or go above the law. At the end of the day, Corner Brookers and Corner Brook City Council must take some responsibility for their over-protective and xenophobic ways which is hurting this city's ability to grow and diversify beyond pulp and paper. In other words, Tom Marshall is right.

  • Laughable
    August 06, 2014 - 11:39

    LOL...Really, Why the hell is everyone mad at Tom? Look in the mirror, that the person you should be mad at. for putting your X next to his name. Tom accomplished what's he set out to do, and he won , all the way to the " Bank" , Now you got Dwight Ball and company, trying to tell the people how they're going to " Diversification" of the economy. to date no plans, but their going up in the polls, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are their own worst " Enemy ".

  • Tyler Callahan
    August 06, 2014 - 10:26

    This entire article is essentially just Tom crying about the fact that he can't ensure quick and easy economic gain through destruction of the environment. His remarks are so underhanded and disrespectful to both professors and students who spend their time putting honest research and thought into these problems while he just sees dollar signs.

    • Bo Dallas
      August 06, 2014 - 14:36

      Yes Tyler Callahan you tell us your big bad opinion about what the Premier (who is soon stepping away) is doing. Cause it's certainly for the dollar signs Hahaha. Maybe you should do some research instead of spewing garbage. This is why our next generation is screwed.

    • Turnbuckle Ted
      August 06, 2014 - 14:44

      I guess you only read the word "environment" and proceeded to write this? *facepalm* "But he only wants moniez!11!!"

    • Kyle Pearce
      August 07, 2014 - 01:03

      A+ Tyler. Hit the nail right on the head. Anyone who understands the nature of capitalism and therefore our economy would see this. This is just another case of the Emperor's new clothes, with Corner Brook being the child from the story. We don't jump on the bandwagon, we research, study, and fight for our best interests.

  • used to be a student
    August 06, 2014 - 10:12

    its hard for students to invest, when they have to pay back a boat load of student loans went to school in this province, graduated in this province, working in this province, and i continue to pay alot every month, for the last 5 years, with 5 more to go, to pay off student debt

    • Jon
      August 06, 2014 - 10:40

      In reply to "used to be a student", MUN has one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) tuitions in Canada. In many instances you are paying half what others pay (eg. Dalhousie). Stop complaining and get some perspective.

    • Perspective
      August 06, 2014 - 10:57

      @Jon Just because it's 'one of the cheapest' does not mean that it's cheap. That's not how logic works. 'One of the cheapest houses' will still be expensive. Many students still require loans and assistance to get through school here. Students are certainly lucky to have lower tuition rates than other schools, but it's not perfect. There's some perspective for you.

    • major debt
      August 06, 2014 - 11:15

      Jon, I have $40,000 of loans from MUN. The average Canadian student has $25,000. That will take years to pay off. Maybe you shouldn't make assumptions and get your own perspective and acknowledge that not everyone gets the privilege of little or no debt if they go to MUN.

    • So what
      August 06, 2014 - 12:23

      Welcome to being an adult.

    • joe
      August 06, 2014 - 17:45

      And Jon, they're still paying 10 times what you probably paid when you went to school, if you went to school in the 90s or earlier. It's all about perspective.

  • William Robert
    August 06, 2014 - 10:00

    I think everybody can agree that Tom is a nice guy. However, this article proves that it's time for him to move on because he is out of touch. Of course a liberal arts / environment university is going to disagree with fracking and TDF . The science on both issues is vague and conflicting at best. Many university's are hotbeds of protest and differing opinions and Tom should realize that. Remember the protests when you went to university Tom? With regards to Nalcor Mr. Premier. If the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador don't understand the benefits of Nalcor, it's because your government has not communicated the benefits clearly enough. Former Premiers Williams and Dunderdale have literally force fed us the Nalcor slops without sufficient evidence and we are suppose to believe it? I really don't think so. You are a good man but walk away and enjoy your retirement. Your age and your beliefs are starting to show your true age. Good luck in your future life Tom. All the best

  • my opinion
    August 06, 2014 - 08:27

    Mr. Marshall you fail to realise that Nalcor and the Muskrat Falls project has been thrown on all of us by your government. The promise of economic prosperity thru self sufficient power and profits from this project come with a huge price to ordinary Nl and Labradorians with increased elect rates to all residents. Its great to brag about how government services will be enhanced because of this but what about the residential home owner who feels the government has caused this increase in their elect bills. We are left with the burden of paying the increased costs. As a senior citizen I don't need that burden.... why don't you use the profits you speak of to subsidize the higher elect rates of all Newfoundlanders if this is truly a asset of the people then they would approve of this. Its the right thing to do.......

  • Wilf Gallant
    August 06, 2014 - 08:02

    Tom Marshall is clearly out of touch with everything on the West Coast. This article proves that. First of all, I don't see how recent university graduates have anything to do with tire burning or fracking. In fact, I am 100% behind these students and professors who stand by the science and keep these polluters out of our neighborhoods. Ol' Tom needs to know that oil fracking and tire burning at the mill doesn't equate to "private industry" they are simply newer methods of his governments claim to fame: OIL. He and his government have done ZERO to diversify the economy of this province beyond the overpass - that is not the fault of the graduate and staff at Grenfell. I have applied 4 times for funding from the provinces economic development fund and was rejected 4 times. Who gets this money? PC Party friends who often donate to the PC coffers. Oh and by the way Tom, the new courthouse and long term care hospital are not economic generators. Grenfell, on the other hand has like 1500 students who eat, drink, sleep and breathe in Corner Brook, creating some 300 direct jobs and god knows how many more spin off jobs - hows that for economic driving? Good riddance to you and your party's old style of governance.

  • shar
    August 06, 2014 - 06:57

    Nothing, I repeat Nothing, is more important that getting a New Hospital for the West Coast and any politician worth his weight would focus on that priority. Corner Brook has some good Dr's but that hospital is old. They also need to be able to treat Cancer patients on the West Coast instead of them having to go to St. John's when they are under enough stress already without having to leave their families to go away for treatments. Start focusing on lives first

    • Grenfell
      August 11, 2014 - 10:10

      I agree, the number 1 priority needs to be the hospital. Hopefully a new hospital will finally attract much needed medical professionals. As for Grenfell. As an employee of Grenfell, let me tell you that there are so many things going on there that the community is not aware of. The idea of Grenfell getting its own autonomy has been squashed. It is never going to happen under its current leadership. MUN has successfully managed to put their own people in leadership roles and their mission seems to be to get rid of anyone that wanted autonomy, to put those people into retirement, or just show them the door. To move as many services back to head campus in MUN and turn Grenfell into a skeletal screw. MUN's mission is NOT to benefit Corner Brook, or to create jobs but to instead bring as much control back to St. Johns as possible to protect their empire. They are hindering growth. They are holding back students. The hurdles that faculty and staff have to contend with here is insane, like a business controlled my the mafia. Also, while the government can say we gave Grenfell X amount of dollars for xxxxx. What they are not telling you is that they have not assisted Grenfell in operating costs. A new building is no good if we can't heat, staff, and maintain it. No new money to assist means cutbacks are on the table, peoples jobs are on the line. It's happening now. Something, or someone's getting cut just to heat the new building. Less employee's mess less service. How can a camps grown with such road blocks in place? Even if a new position does get approved, it takes years to get it due to St.Johns red tape and we can't attract real talent because for some reason they will not pay Corner Brook positions on par with St.Johns even though the average employee here does 3 times the work. The Corner Brook community really needs to be more involved with Grenfell and how its being run.