Newspapers Atlantic and The Annapolis Spectator are to be congratulated for initiating and organizing The Georgetown Conference “rural Atlantic’s response to pressures facing the region including demographics, out-migration, reliance on traditional industries and negative perceptions – both within and outside the region”.
John A. Macdonald, our first (and third) Prime Minister is quoted as remarking that “forms are things;” some have interpreted this saying to mean that “perception is reality.” In my opinion, to deal with the future and the pressures set out above requires, ab initio, a positive attitude; that is, an innate belief that we can recognize and deal successfully with current and future challenges.
However, at the outset we must also realize and accept that there are no “absolutes.” By that I mean we will not absolutely ever solve the demographic challenge, even with enormous increases in the birth rate and immigration. In the same vein, out-migration has always been a defining factor of life in the Maritime Provinces. Our young and not-so-young have left not always for, as some would surmise, a life of adventure; but to find gainful employment. Some have returned but not nearly all. The pull of the Canadian West (the new “Boston States”) has been too strong for some. Never in our history have we been able to provide “jobs here” for all who wanted to remain at home. We must keep that fact always in mind.
As stated by the organizers “Redefining Rural” is the leitmotiv of the Georgetown Conference. To begin to do that we need a vision of what we want to accomplish in the present time and well into the future. In the case of Annapolis County, the county council has adopted my suggestion that we craft a strategic plan to guide us on our way. It has also agreed with Councillor Gregory Heming’s initiative to formulate a far-reaching economic development plan. Many other subjects will be featured in the strategic document as it will provide an umbrella for all future endeavours. Once we have decided where we want to go and what we want to be, it will be less difficult to achieve our end-state. I commend this approach to conference participants and all others who have not yet embraced its potential.
If we are to ensure a meaningful outcome to the conference and proceed on our way to better times, we must decide how much we want to restore, maintain and enhance our rural way of life. We must examine and capitalize on the example of some very successful Annapolis County enterprises such as Acadian Seaplants, Foamworx, Fort Anne, the growing vineyard and wine industry, and the motels and bed and breakfast establishments, among others.
“Shop Local” as an exhortation has become almost trite. Not many will disagree with the concept but few are willing to make the effort to live up to it.
If we are not prepared to assist necessary and desirable businesses to remain viable, if we choose to travel away from our rural areas to save a loonie or two at a big store, if we do not encourage and support our relatively small but area-vital craft and service endeavours, if we do not become more energetic in attracting new residents from elsewhere in Canada and abroad, then we can confidently expect our rural areas to continue to decline.
I, for one, do not want that to happen.
Annapolis County councillor,
Pearson Peacekeeping Centre.