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Brian Tobin couldn't say no when asked to chair TNL's fundraising campaign for new theatre in Cow Head

Former Newfoundland premier and federal MP Brian Tobin is chairing TNL's Set the Stage Campaign. He spoke about the campaign to raise funds for the construction of the theatre company's new theatre in Cow Head during an event at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook on Thursday.
Former Newfoundland premier and federal MP Brian Tobin is chairing TNL's Set the Stage Campaign. He spoke about the campaign to raise funds for the construction of the theatre company's new theatre in Cow Head during an event at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook on Thursday. - Diane Crocker

Brian Tobin will turn 64 next month and he’s getting to the point where he’s questioning if he really needs to be doing as much as he does.

But that questioning didn’t stop the former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and long-time Liberal MP from taking on an endeavour that’s near and dear to him.

Tobin is chair of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s Set the Stage Campaign. The capital campaign is aimed at raising funds to build a new theatre in Cow Head for TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Construction of the building has already started.

TNL's artistic director Jeff Pitcher spoke at an event at the Rotary Art Centre in Corner Brook on Thursday held to mark the launch of the theatre company's Set the Stage Campaign to raise funds for its new theatre in Cow Head.
TNL's artistic director Jeff Pitcher spoke at an event at the Rotary Art Centre in Corner Brook on Thursday held to mark the launch of the theatre company's Set the Stage Campaign to raise funds for its new theatre in Cow Head.

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Tobin was in Corner Brook on Thursday for a reception at the Rotary Arts Centre. The event was a follow-up to one held in St. John’s on Wednesday to launch the fundraising campaign.

He was joined by Premier Dwight Ball, MP Gudie Hutchings, the board and staff of TNL and members of the business and arts community.

Tobin started his political career in 1980 in the former federal riding of Humber-Port au Port-St. Barbe. That riding would later become Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte and Tobin held the seat there until 1995 when he announced he was leaving federal politics for a go at provincial politics.

In February 1996, he was elected premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and served as such until October 2000. He then jumped back into federal politics with a successful run in the riding of Bonavista-Trinity-Conception.

After 22 years, he left politics in January 2002.

It was then Tobin went to work in the business world. Now living in Toronto he’s the chair of the board of New Flyer Industries, the largest manufacturer of city/urban transit buses in North America; chair of the board of Element Fleet, the biggest car/auto leasing company in North America; and lead director of AECON Construction, the largest publicly traded construction company in Canada. He’s also vice-chair of the board of BMO Capital Markets.

And it’s not all work that takes up his time.

Besides his role on the TNL campaign he’s also co-chair of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s capital campaign and volunteers for a number of other different organizations.

So, while he’d been thinking it may be time to scale back a bit, Tobin said chairing Set the Stage is something he couldn’t turn down.

Hutching’s Long Range Mountains riding takes in a big part what was Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte.

Besides being an MP there for many years, Tobin said he has a lot of personal friends in the area.

As someone who’s travelled the planet a lot, Tobin said on a pound for pound basis this province outpunches its weight.

“This is the most incredible tourism product in the planet. But to make it better you have to have world-class attractions, you have to have world-class facilities,” he said.

“The very best thing we have in addition to our natural environment, which is pristine and pure and beautiful, are our people and our story.”

He said the new theatre will give the storytellers a venue in which to tell it.

“What this facility is going to do is turn what is already a nationally recognized program in Cow Head into an even bigger and better and more acclaimed nucleus or incubator for talent.

“So, I just couldn’t say no.”

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