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Frank McKenna, the former Canadian Ambassador to the United States and former Premier of New Brunswick, delivered the keynote address at the 66th annual Canadian Library Association Conference and Trade Show on May 26in Halifax. CUPE is a platinum sponsor of the CLA Conference and Trade Show and also sponsored the keynote address. CUPE is the union of choice for library workers. We represent approximately 22,000 library workers across Canada, or 62.5 per cent of all library workers in Canada.

In his opening remarks, McKenna thanked CUPE for its sponsorship. McKenna told the audience that knowledge is the most powerful resource that we have and it should be our number one national priority. He says the more knowledge we have as a country, the more employment prospects we have, which in turn results in a healthier tax base.

McKenna says we cannot compete with the developing world manufacturing “widgets” and neither should we. He says we must leverage our strengths to create a more sustainable economy through the production of new knowledge. At the same time, McKenna says we should be opening our doors to more foreign students because doing so is healthy for our economic prospects.

McKenna also touched on what he calls the tsunami of change that is being experienced around the globe, such as the massive public unrest for democratic change that’s occurring in numerous Middle Eastern and North African countries. The internet and twitter in particular is the backdrop to much of this massive social change.

McKenna also commented on the state of the world economy. He says numerous countries remain in financial difficulty, including Greece and Ireland. And the United States is reaching its debt ceiling with no clear consensus moving forward on how to deal with the situation.

Canada is in the best fiscal position of all industrialized countries, says McKenna. He also notes that we are in an enviable position due to our abundance of natural resources. However, McKenna says that more sources of knowledge are imperative for our future economic success and we cannot rest on our laurels.

In other news from the CLA Conference and Trade Show, Karen Adams is the president elect of the CLA for 2011-12. Adams is the Director of Libraries at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. She takes over from outgoing CLA President Keith Walker, Director of Library Services, Medicine Hat College Library.