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Editorial: What can we do?

By Brian Lazzuri

A town of a few hundred people, Georgetown, P.E.I., seems to be an unlikely place to be the birthplace of a movement that hopes to change rural Atlantic Canada. Yet Georgetown epitomizes exactly what has transpired across our region from the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador to those along the Atlantic, Bay of Fundy and Northumberland Strait and the lands that they contain. Georgetown’s shipyard and sawmill have closed and the community watches its sons and daughters leave in search of a living.
So last week, 275 “doers and producers” from acrossAtlantic Canada gathered at the Georgetown Conference: Rural Redefined to focus on how we can do better at attracting business and industry and how to improve the region’s economy. In the room, there were multimillionaires such as John Bragg, Zita Cobb, Barry Kyle and Jevon MacDonald. They were joined by small business owners, artists and everyday people who are trying to scratch out a living.
The common theme tying them together was that they all care about Atlantic Canada and want to make it a place where people, young and old, will want and be able to call it their home.
There are no quick solutions coming out of the conference, nor were there any expected. The three days of talks and small group sessions were about learning what is working in some areas and how it may be applied in others. It was about what mistakes are being made and how they can be corrected. It was about how change can only happen when everyday citizens step up and answer the call about what they can do to make a difference.
Eliminating negativity from our mindset and our words is a good place to start. More than one speaker noted how our own negative attitude toward ourselves and those who are trying new things limits opportunity. How often do we sit in a coffee shop, or some other gathering place, and complain about our situation only to criticize individuals or businesses who are trying to make a difference?
Only one politician was among the nearly two dozen speakers. Doug Griffiths of Alberta was invited to speak about his book 13 Ways to Kill Your Community. The lively talk (see page 7A) went through the 13 items he believes are make or break for communities. The talk is a must for any local politician and can be viewed at the Georgetown Conference website. Antigonish is doing well among the 13 items but improvement is important to continue our successes. The Casket is donating a copy of the book to the Antigonish Library.
In the coming weeks, the paper will continue to report on what transpired in Georgetown and what delegates from the Strait Area will be doing to make a difference. After all, no one needs another conference without concrete action. In return, we hope everyone asks, “What can we do?” … and then does it.