05/07/2012 01:57 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Newfoundland's Newfound Pride Outweighs that of Ontario


Some leading political theorists have been suggesting that in recent years, our world's future power cores, and ultimate centres of influence will, once again, shift to our cities -- essentially reverting to the way things used to be up until the Middle Ages, when cities really ruled the world. This gradual move of the centres of gravity away from broader jurisdictions, like provinces, states, federations, or even larger political unions like the E.U., is said to be happening again because cities typically provide for much tighter, and more immediately identifiable community of interest among their citizens.

New Yorkers, Londoners or Montrealers tend to identify much more easily with their local citizen brand, values, and concerns, whereas Ontarians, Floridians or Western Australians might not really "live" their unique jurisdictional character in their everyday lives. Exceptions abound, of course, but sometimes even those exceptions help illustrate the validity of this theory.

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few days in beautiful Newfoundland. My work there involved launching some truly world-leading programs that encourage citizens to use public transit. As I roamed from one press interview to another, I began to notice something fascinating about how our story was being picked up -- it wasn't just ordinary news; instead it was news that was intended to trigger citizen pride!

The fact that Newfoundland was the first place where these types of incentives were coming to life was suddenly the main message. Those who heard it on the radio, saw it on TV, or read about it in the papers seemed to only want to focus on, and celebrate the "us first" part. As I reflected on it, I realized the story was resonating that way because it's so easy to ignite Newfoundlanders' unique, and very consistently shared sense of pride of identity.

On my final evening in St. John's I was invited to a large fundraising dinner. Not surprisingly, at the start of the proceedings the guests were led into singing our national anthem. But then, at the end of the evening, we were also led into singing the "Ode to Newfoundland" -- and that was truly a moment I will never forget. The sense of pride, meaningful connection, and powerful identification that filled that room was truly overwhelming. A colleague turned to me and said: "My goodness, why don't we have an 'Ode to Ontario?'" Very telling indeed.

Tightly shared heritage, values, and pride can obviously drive a solid sense of alignment, and common identity in a community. And those types of cohesive civic societies can be dynamic, creative, and very powerful sources of leadership, and innovation for our world. To the naked eye Newfoundland might look like an aberration to the urban powerhouse theory because it's a province, not a city -- but its incredibly tight culture, and solid sense of self-identification is precisely the type of secret sauce that urban powerhouses are built on. It now makes even more sense to me why they call that province "The Rock."