To Georgetown with pride

Dear Georgetown:

My pride in Newspapers Atlantic couldn’t be higher at the moment. These are my colleagues responding to a longstanding problem that has, in reality, become a crisis. Rural economies are faltering. The point of no return is fast approaching, and Big Government doesn’t seem to care. Big Business seems to exist only to squeeze the last dregs of revenue from dying communities.

The industries of the past no longer exist – at least in any meaningful way. I was taught that fishing, farming, and forestry were the primary industries. They were dead or dying even as my teachers said the words. And that was more than 40 years ago. But while the economic model died, we were hanging on to the idea of it and wondering why our youth were heading west; why there were no boats at the wharfs; why the income for apples was gone; and why our sawmills, and yes, paper mills were closing down.

Now, like sheep, we look up. It’s taken this long for The Georgetown Conference (October 2013 Georgetown, PEI) to happen. And it wasn’t Big Government or Big Business that drew the line in the sand – saying enough is enough – it was community newspapers.

There’s a reason for that. Editors and reporters have written and rewritten this story thousands of times. Circumstances may change slightly, names may differ from story to story, and there might be a different date on the masthead. But in the end its about businesses closing and jobs lost – followed shortly thereafter with stories of families ‘goin’ down the road’ to Alberta. On the heels of all that is the corresponding loss of government services in areas of declining populations.

Some thoughts for Georgetown delegates to consider might be the creation of a method to define a baseline measure of rural economic health in a defined rural economy. In this exercise we might be able to discover leaks in that economy – that is to say, how revenue or income is being siphoned off to other economies including the stock portfolios of shareholders in major corporations. Plugging those leaks is a priority just to be able to tread water.

For decades we’ve looked to government for business funding, reduced business taxes, business planning, and various other advantages. Perhaps we were looking in the wrong direction. We were looking out when we should have been looking within. Every rural economy in which I’ve lived has been populated with intelligent, hard-working, and innovative people. Give them the encouragement, the environment, and even a flickering vision of promise and they’ll get it done. Self-reliance always produces. Reliance on others often produces vague nothings and unrealized potentials. It seems it has become incumbent upon rural citizens to shuck those government crutches and lean on each other on a road to economic healing.

Lawrence Powell
Annapolis County, NS