In 1846, at the invitation of the government of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia-born geologist Abraham Gesner travelled to Charlottetown to give a public demonstration of a new process he had invented. The process distilled a clear thin fluid from coal, which was an excellent lamp oil. Gesner called the oil kerosene.
Distilling kerosene from coal, however, was expensive. Fortunately, while undertaking the first geological survey of New Brunswick a few years before, Gesner discovered a natural bituminous tar, found only in Albert County, from which kerosene could be distilled at a much lower cost. He called this bituminous tar, Albertite. Ultimately, this discovery inspired John D. Rockefeller to found what is today’s international petroleum industry.
Gesner and his discoveries, symbolize not only the ingenuity of Atlantic Canadians and the wealth of our resources but also the many contributions we have made to the advancement of the world. Our region is home to ideas, products, innovators, and a drive to succeed. We also possess competitive advantages that bring new opportunities for economic growth.
Building on Atlantic Canada’s centuries-old culture of innovation, the Government of Canada is working with the four provincial governments to take bold action – under the Atlantic Growth Strategy (AGS) – to create more middle-class jobs, strengthen local communities, and grow the economy.
By focussing the region’s efforts and resources, the AGS will stimulate our economy, support our middle class, and address longstanding and emerging regional challenges.
The AGS has five pillars: Skilled Workforce and Immigration; Trade and Investment; Clean Growth and Climate Change; Infrastructure; and Innovation.
The federal government is committed to empowering our entrepreneurs through innovation, and I have been pleased to work with drivers of our regional economy as Chair of the Atlantic Growth Strategy Subcommittee on Innovation.
Our mandate has been to propose innovative solutions that will foster greater business growth in our region through the scaling up of small firms, technology transfer, commercialization of research, and the development of breakthrough ideas in areas such as bioscience, aquaculture, ocean technology and renewable energy. We also sought to highlight opportunities to spur value-added growth in established industries.
In a comprehensive consultation tour earlier this year, we received input from stakeholders across all four Atlantic Provinces. We recently released our final report, A Faster, More Agile and Certain Atlantic Canada, complete with recommendations on how government can unleash the longstanding potential of our innovators to drive economic growth for Canada.
The AGS’s whole-of-government approach is designed to harness the region’s assets, identify shared economic priorities, and encourage collaboration on the design and implementation of actions. It also emphasizes region-wide measures, aligns actions with national and provincial priorities, engages and consults with stakeholders, and the need to report progress and results.
By engaging our business community, building innovation capacity, and creating new opportunities for growth in this region, the AGS will enhance and enrich Atlantic Canada’s climate of excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship — our Innovation Ecosystem.
Recently named Canada’s Start-Up Community of the Year, Fredericton itself has earned a well-deserved reputation as an entrepreneurial centre and hub of innovation. With UNB playing an integral role, the city’s thriving innovation ecosystem is attracting more innovators, more creative entrepreneurs.
The robust research and commercialization capacity found within our world-class post-secondary institutions, and the incubation and supports offered through the public and private sectors, guarantee that Fredericton will continue to play a pivotal role in contributing to Atlantic Canada’s economic growth.
Sometimes we Atlantic Canadians forget the many innovations we have given the world. Whether it’s marine, mapping or mining technology, or any of a thousand other advancements, Atlantic Canadians have made, and continue to make, the world a better place to live.
Just as Gesner’s 19th-century innovations in lighting helped lay the foundation of our modern industrial economy, so too will the Government of Canada’s Atlantic Growth Strategy lay the foundation for a brighter, more prosperous future for Atlantic Canadians.
Matt DeCourcey, MP for Fredericton and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is one of the authors of “A Faster, More Agile and Certain Atlantic Canada – Report of the Atlantic Growth Strategy Subcommittee on Innovation, May 15, 2017.” The report can be found online at www.mattdecourceymp.ca