Published: June 14, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
As talked about in previous articles we here at the NSN recently signed on to a community initiative aimed at getting us out and active. So during my lunch hours or after work I have been grabbing the dogs from their backyard palace and hitting the streets.
We have two seriously large dogs – one of which is in his sunset years. He was once a very active dog who ran for miles every day. However, maturing hips and a few harsh winters has left him showing his age. But he can still get himself up and is excited when he hears the leash.
Each time we start out strong – he’s in the lead and he’s powerful. He’s got a gallop to his step and, if you believe dogs smile, a big one is plastered across his snout. This lasts for about five minutes and then the fatigue sets in. He’s down, he’s dreary, he’s stumbling. There are shorter energy bursts but they are few and far between. Lather, rinse and repeat.
His daily battle seems to be a fitting metaphor for the current state of our local affairs.
It is very hard to deny that our economy is taking hit after hit and it’s being felt everywhere – in the supply chain for goods and services, in the housing market and in our schools. The start of the tourism trade has things on a rise but the threat of continued layoffs with local employers has fatigue right on the edge, ready to set in.
Although while the tale of woe is spun and spun I find it hard to quiet the voice of hindsight that says we were warned. One-industry towns are great during the good times but disastrous when bad. For years the local government has been trying to have a conversation about sustainability – social, environmental, cultural and economic. It went as far as to develop a sustainability plan in 2011 setting out short and long range targets to establish a “balanced and diversified economy.”
At the time the plan was written it reported a local labour force of 2,870 workers noting in 2006 the employment rate in the community surpassed the provincial average charting 72 per cent and although I don’t have hard data to back this up anecdotally there were a number of years that that number reached closer to 90 per cent.
A balanced economy with activity in mining, forestry, tourism, commercial, manufacturing, education, health and social services was the “where we want to be.” How we get there? Hire a full-time economic development officer, engage business leaders and companies to identity existing barriers to economic development and develop infrastructure to support economic growth.
Now granted the timeline on the sustainability plan was to span a forty year time table, however a quick six years later our performance indicators are not measuring up, ie: population growth, employment rate, average income and employment sector. And if I recall correctly interest within the community in sustainability planning was low at the time, however I bet it would be a little greater had the exercise been conducted now.
It’s in these times we look around for the economic development that we should’ve been working on since implementing the multi-generational plan and from Howey Street it’s really hard to see.