Share our successes, panellists tell province

Now that Prince Edward Island is tied for the third-fastest-growing economy in Canada, Premier Wade MacLauchlan had a message for those attending the province’s 2017 Economic Forum this week.

“Let’s get used to traveling in the company of the high performers in the country,” he said.

The premier’s third-annual forum was held on May 29 at Stanley Bridge Country Resort and featured Island business and community leaders who had good advice for government on how to continue to grow the population and economy.

Three common themes surfaced: match young job seekers – from inside and outside the province – with in-demand skills; enhance our connectedness, both physically and technologically; and never stop sharing our success stories with the world.

The first of two panels was titled “Population and Employment” and included Alex Youland, recruitment and culture coordinator with Murphy Hospitality Group, Susan MacPhail, HR manager with Maximus, and Jacinthe Lemire, director of La Coopérative  d’intégration francophone de l’ÎPÉ.

A second panel on “Place and Growth” featured Audrey Shillabeer of the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation, Stratford Mayor David Dunphy, and John Kimmel, managing director and co-founder of RevIQ.

The province’s Board of Economic Advisors – Dr. Tim O’Neill, Elizabeth Beale, and Michael Horgan also addressed forum delegates. They advised that encouraging immigrants and entrepreneurs to the province is critical to increasing the PEI population and growing the economy.

“The province’s population growth is going to have to come from immigration,” Horgan said.

Recruiting people for jobs on the Island is the first step, but keeping them here is quite another. Newcomers will only stay on Prince Edward Island if they are happy in their non-working time as well as in their careers, panelists agreed.

“If the children are happy here, the parents will stay longer,” Lemire said.

And when youth are ready to enter the workforce, government must make sure they are prepared with the right skills and training.

“It’s not necessarily government’s job to create jobs,” Youland said, “but it is their job to work with the private sector to establish connectivity to young people.”

Most panellists said telling our success stories was critical to letting others, inside and outside the province, know that  anything is possible in Prince Edward Island.

“I don’t think that we can do this enough,” MacPhail said. “PEI is an amazing place to live, to work, and to play, and I think we need to do more to tell the world.”

“If you read a story about someone returning here and succeeding, you gain a level of confidence yourself,” Youland said.

Along with leading Atlantic Canada in economic growth, Prince Edward Island achieved its first balanced budget in 10 years – which the premier and Finance Minister Allen Roach said underscores Prince Edward Island as a strong, stable economy that is becoming noticed elsewhere.

“I believe we have a solid, secure province that people from other jurisdictions are looking at and wanting to invest in,” Roach said.

One of the Island’s biggest advantages is our sense of place, the premier noted. The Island’s small size is its strength, and our economy works because it is diverse and interconnected.

The biggest thing that needs to change is our thinking, he said.

“We can do well, and we want to do well, by working together. A big part of doing well in PEI starts in our own hearts and heads.”

Watch the complete 2017 Economic Forum

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