Sea change? Working together is key for the East Coast

Sea change? Working together is key for the East Coast

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia must put rivalries aside and collaborate to grab a bigger share of the global ocean economy

I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A FUNDAMENTAL belief that two heads are better than one and a project is always better when people from diverse backgrounds work together.

Simply put: I like to collaborate. As an entrepreneur, this philosophy does sometimes conflict with my inner competitive diva, particularly relating to my own business development. Fortunately, I’ve learned that my perceived competitors are often my best business partners. I tend to have more in common with them; I always learn from them; and the scope and scale of my business grows through collaboration with them.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a weird competitive vibe between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. This is likely rooted in how our national governments tend to manage regionally, so one province often feels it is getting the short end of the stick compared to others on national decisions. Competition has also been traditionally high among the provinces’ fishing and oil and gas sectors.

Now that both provinces have significant leadership positions within the federal government’s Ocean Supercluster initiative, politicians have been sending us messages about the importance of collaboration. I absolutely agree. This is a great opportunity to join forces and leverage our ocean expertise to fully realize the potential of Canada’s ocean economy. But it’s naive to think this will happen overnight by just telling us to play nice. Another approach may be to simply accept our differences and competitiveness for what they are, embrace the full package and make it work for us.

Creative abrasion through collaboration is extremely powerful. Let’s convert the energy that comes from working with people who are different and competitive and turn it into something positive. It’s about leveraging differences and working to identify what can be complementary about them. This also means we can’t deny who we are: there will be disagreements. There are some bad communication habits on both sides that will need to be taken to task. Without a doubt, we will sometimes have to be patient with each other. But it will be worth it.

That’s because there is tremendous power behind both these strong ocean economies. Newfoundland and Labrador’s ocean economy is diverse, touching almost every aspect of its society. Its companies are exporting to over 47 countries through vast international networks. It generates the highest revenues in Canada’s ocean economy. It is now experiencing tremendous growth in aquaculture, and the petroleum industry is experiencing a rebound with new exploration on the horizon. The province is home to a network of companies, institutions and research and development facilities that have developed numerous technologies that make operating in some of the world’s harshest environments possible.

Nova Scotia’s ocean economy is also diverse. The presence of shipbuilding and Canada’s military and how these important sectors influence business and technology development is profound. Nova Scotia reportedly has one of the highest concentrations of ocean-related PhDs in the world and is home to Canada’s largest centre for ocean research. More than 300 companies are doing oceans-sector business in Nova Scotia. I’m extremely impressed by how the province markets its ocean expertise and how its business community connects to one another and to these messages.

On a provincial scale or even a national scale, when it comes to our ocean expertise, I do question if we really are competitors. Just Google ocean economy, and you’ll quickly learn that much larger and economically stronger jurisdictions such as China, Norway and Australia are the real competition in the global ocean economy.

What the two provinces have in common is pretty amazing. They are drivers of innovation. They have strong global networks. They share a powerful economic connection to the ocean. On a global scale, they know cold water better than most. They are both fiercely proud and determined. Working together, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador could be a force―a significant marketplace force.

Thankfully, both provinces appear to be moving in this direction, poised to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and investment from our national government. I am hopeful we can get our collective acts together and go after a share of a much larger economic pie that has the potential to be a legacy for both provinces and our country.

Caron Hawco, ABC, PMP, is a communication and business strategy consultant and project manager, specializing in natural resources, public affairs, business development, trade missions, diversity, facilitation and media relations.

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