Nfld. & Labrador

People are N.L.'s greatest contribution to Canada: Rick Mercer

Rick Mercer feels the people from Newfoundland and Labrador have made their presence felt and known on the Canadian landscape since confederation.

Mercer hosted Canada Day 150! From Coast to Coast to Coast live from Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Rick Mercer says when it comes to jobs where the gift of gab is a requirement, people from Newfoundland and Labrador 'punch above their weight.' (CBC)

When asked what Newfoundland and Labrador's biggest contribution to Canada is, television icon Rick Mercer's answer is simple: "people."

"We've given human capital to the country," said Mercer, the host of CBC Television's Rick Mercer Report.

Our culture has permeated the nation.- Rick Mercer

"At first I thought natural resources, but human capital has to be the biggest contribution," he said. "Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are everywhere. We've always gone away and built a lot of Canada."

​That reach goes beyond labour, too. In particular, Mercer said, when "the gift of gab" is a requirement for the job. 

"We punch above our weight," he said on CBC Radio's CrossTalk. 

Rick Mercer says cultural ambassadors from Newfoundland and Labrador have enlightened Canadians about their province. (CBC)

Canadians are more aware of Newfoundland and Labrador because of cultural ambassadors from this province, Mercer explained.

"When you tell people you're from Newfoundland and Labrador, they talk about how badly they want to get there and how cool they think it is. They're familiar because of the culture and our cultural ambassadors."

Callers to CrossTalk suggested icons from Newfoundland and Labrador contribute to make Canada whole.

People like Rex Murphy, Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Shaun Majumder, Ron Hynes, Gordon Pinsent and acts like CODCO and Great Big Sea, add value, they said, to the Canadian landscape.

Rick Mercer hosted Canada Day 150! From Coast to Coast to Coast live from Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"When you hear that list of entertainers, I know everyone one of them would say their 'second job' would be an ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador, because everyone takes it very seriously," Mercer said.

"Our culture has permeated the nation, the CBC has a fair bit to do with that."

Not just in Canada 

Mercer said he encounters people from the province making their mark around the world, too.

"I've had the experience of travelling internationally and bumping in to Newfoundlanders doing tremendous things," he said.

One time while in Shanghai with the Mercer Report, he tried unsuccessfully to get his crew on top of a very tall building. 

"This building wasn't even open yet and it was 101 stories tall. At the time the tallest building in the world," he said.

"I wanted to get on the roof of the building, I was thinking if we get up there that would be like the helicopter shot of Shanghai, we need that beauty shot."

This Hour Has 22 Minutes cast members Mark Critch (l-r), Cathy Jones, Susan Kent and Shaun Majumder arrive on the red carpet at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Mercer was told it wouldn't happen, and it would take weeks to get an appointment with the person in charge of leasing the building. 

As luck would have it, that person was nearby and Mercer walked up and introduced himself.

"And the minute he opened his mouth I recognized the Newfoundland accent.  Twenty five minutes later we were on the roof."

Cultural investment needs improvement

Mercer added this province's culture is valued across the country and should get more recognition and support at home. 

"The support for arts and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador at the municipal level and at the provincial level is not really there compared to other jurisdictions," he said.

"There needs to be support for emerging artists, for existing artists that work in Newfoundland who export their novels, their stories their songs. It's a big part of who we are and it's a big part of what draws people to the shores."