FOLLOW TINA AND HER TEAM AS THEY work to CRAFT THE FRAMEWORK FOR A SUSTAINABLE POPULATION GROWTH STRATEGY IN LUNENBURG COUNTY
BY TINA HENNIGAR
I mean no disrespect, and I'm certain that I'll appear very ungrateful, but I think we need to have a conversation about gift giving and our lack of creativity. Let me explain.
NOW Lunenburg County has been asked to speak at several events recently to share our insights and experiences. And we're happy to do it. We feel it's our duty as a grassroots organization to help other grassroots organizations learn from our success, and more importantly, our failures. And aside from being reimbursed for our expenses, we don't get paid for these speaking engagements. Getting a small gift as a token of thanks for the time and effort that it takes to put together a presentation and to be present and engaged, while nice, isn't entirely necessary. But I get it. It might feel weird, awkward even, to not give anything.
Recently, we presented at the Healthy Communities conference hosted by the department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. I wrote recently that the event was positive and participating felt very worthwhile. I learned a lot, even as a presenter, so it was time very well spent. Receiving a gift was entirely unnecessary, but even still, as I walked to my car, I was eager to open it. Secretly I was hoping it might be the plan for how communities can apply for the $200,000 of funding that the Liberal Government announced to assist communities in attracting doctors, instead of having to wait the usual months for the criteria and application process to be released.
I opened a beautiful, stunning Nova Scotia Crystal bowl. It's gorgeous. I'm so thankful that our province gives products made in Nova Scotia. A quick search on their website, I learned that this bowl cost $60 and I immediately thought of what our grassroots group, who is always relying on donations, could have accomplished with $60. Not much you might say. Not true I say.
Just this week, I supplied coffee, tea and carrot muffins for 10 influencers from Dalhousie Medical school as they explored the area as a possible site for the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship program, where up to 5-medical students will live and practice in our community. $60 could have paid for us to tour 143 KM's of coastline with our visiting doctor and her family. $60 could have helped us pay for a bike rental so they could have explored our trails. Sure, we often leverage partnerships with the private sector and generously Sweet Rides in Mahone Bay often get donates bikes but golly, it would sure be nice to actually pay for one every once in a while.
$60 might have paid for a bottle of wine for a couple to share over dinner, or it could have been used to help us pay for gas when we go to New Brunswick in the fall for our next doctor recruitment event.
I'm not trying to suggest that we don't appreciate gifts, or that they shouldn't be given or to stop supporting Nova Scotia products. But honestly, my first thought after opening it was, "I wonder what I can fill this with to give to a visiting doctor, so they'll remember us. Maybe I can fill it with homemade nuts and accompany it with local craft beer. Perhaps I can turn it into a soap dish and include some of our homemade artisan soaps."
See, I told you I'd come off like an ungrateful brat, but as difficult as it was to say this, someone has to have the courage to tell the truth. Let's not stop buying fabulous gifts made in Nova Scotia that promote our province. But let's understand our audience. Let's continue to support our incredible Nova Scotia producers by giving them to potential investors. A basket with Nova Scotian Crystal, craft beer, Amos Pewter, Ironworks rum, seeds from The Incredible Seed Co, and a litany of other incredible products made here in Nova Scotia, to show investors that Nova Scotia is where it's at when it comes to doing business and creating epic products. But to presenters at a conference, someone like me who is a 'sure thing', who already knows we are the creative epicentre, the best gift of all would be if our government could make it easier for our group and other grassroots groups like ours to do this work.
BY TINA HENNIGAR
If you spend any time online, you’ve seen that Nova Scotians seem to have a lot to complain about. It’s been raining for what feels like an eternity. We don’t all have a family doctor. And don’t get me started on the taxes!
But if we’re going to be negative while the world is watching, we need to be honest, too.
We have the most amazing beaches the world has ever seen. The talent we have is world class. We’re creating tires, airplane parts, video-games, jewelry, beer, and incredible food. And the people- they don’t come any better than our people!
NOW Lunenburg County has been doing this work, growing the population, while shining a spotlight on some of the barriers. So, we have to be positive, while at the same time, be truthful. The back and forth can make a person feel like they’re vibrating.
I was recently a part of a panel of community leaders who are trying our darnedest to create the conditions for people, in particular doctors to create a life they love in Lunenburg County and throughout the province. For me that means I’m baking cinnamon rolls for visiting residents, touring visiting doctors around our community to inspire them and biking 20 km’s during Rural Week to show 3-medical students our beautiful coastline. It also includes baking a carrot cake for a team visiting from Dalhousie Med School in preparation for the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship, an initiative that will entirely change the game when it comes to bringing students here and exposing them to life and work in Lunenburg County. The good news is this is all work I love - so doesn’t feel like work at all!
The bad news is that regardless of the effort, if you go online, you’ll read all kinds of comments about why this isn’t working, or that this isn’t the community’s responsibility and other reasons why it’s easier to do nothing. It’s easy to simply complain and criticize those who are trying.
For example, our province recently announced a $200,000 fund specifically for community groups and organizations to help recruit doctors to Nova Scotia. We’ve long been saying that community groups such as NOW Lunenburg County need funds to do this work, and only the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg and the Town of Mahone Bay have supported our work. "Doctor recruitment is not the job of municipal government," is what we hear from the rest. But organizing bike rides, touring with and hosting visiting doctors, helping them find rental properties, all that work comes at a cost. This fund could help offset that cost. It could help make sure that NOW Lunenburg County, and others like Now Lunenburg County, can at least get reimbursed for our gas and ingredients. We felt hopeful by the announcement. It’s certainly not going to solve all the issues facing doctor recruitment and retention. It will not address many of the issues that we have no influence over. But it will help us address many of the things we can do and control.
Yet, armchair quarterbacks were quick to comment on how this fund is implying we have to “clean ourselves up” to “attract” doctors. Others suggested that this is a mechanism to evade responsibility so that government can no longer be held accountable. “We gave you money to recruit. If you can’t, well, then that’s on you,” one commenter suggested. And then there is the idea that $200,000 will do nothing to help the situation. And that is where I felt my blood pressure rise.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.