Two years ago the Georgetown Conference, held in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island was the catalyst for many Atlantic Canadian communities to jumpstart grassroots efforts at tackling the demographic and economic challenges impacting rural sustainability.
The follow up, Georgetown 2.0, Solutions, was held this past June 2-4, 2016. Passionate and inspiring leaders from across the Atlantic Region attended to identify and work through real issues in their communities.
NOWLC will be presenting a three-week series highlighting the conversations and learning coming out of Georgetown 2.0, including stories from those who attended from Luneneburg County.
We hope you enjoy the series and send your thoughts and comments along via the comment section at the bottom of this blog or to our email address at firstname.lastname@example.org
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE - Elspeth McLean-Wile
Georgetown 2.0 was a good opportunity to recharge the batteries by surrounding oneself with enthusiastic people committed to working to improve the prosperity of communities across Atlantic Canada.
At every opportunity I was able to easily slip into rich conversations with other participants who were involved in business or community projects that are or can contribute to a more vibrant economy… the couple from Newfoundland starting up a 400 head sheep farm. Step #1, clear 80 acres of forest to create pasture land!
In the world of agriculture today, there are not many starting at this significant size. Their backgrounds are not agriculture – food service and business! They will bring a very different perspective to the farming community.
Then there was the young man from eastern PEI who is dreams of opening a microbrewery and restaurant by May 2017. He needs a financing package valued at $1.5 million. He asked the group on options for financing and how he can get community investors. He got lots of ideas and input.
I could not help but sympathize with the folks from Pictou County who arrived just days after the plebiscite on amalgamation of four municipal units in the county. Three young women, the MacConnell sisters, shared their experiences working on the “YES” campaign. Lisa MacDougall, the Chief Operating Officer for New Glasgow, shared stories of hostile public meetings. Residents were pitted against each other in ways many had never seen before.
I was most interested in learning why there was such hostility around a realistic and inevitable discussion. What lessons can our community learn about how we approach these discussions and how to include public input that contributes to improving the outcomes? Clearly, the broad community needs to be party to all aspects of amalgamation proposal building. These discussions need to start at the grassroots with citizens and build up. Many of our elected officials appear afraid to bring these discussions to open forums and take the time to insure public understanding and knowledge of the implications of amalgamation. The public meetings in Pictou County appear to have come too late in the process to allay the fear of higher taxes, loss of representation and community identity. There reis plenty for the residents of Lunenburg County to consider as our councillors toy with the notion of amalgamation.
Rural communities across the region share many similar experiences with depopulation, loss of infrastructure and challenging economics. There were lots of conversations about the inability of government to change the “tide of demise”; that tide will only turn when ordinary citizens lead the change, community by community.
The conference this year had a strong focus on participant participation. This became evident on day one, when the conference began with the 20 x 20 speaker series. A showcase of participants from across the region sharing their stories of triumphs and challenges of getting change done. One of the participant speakers was Darrin Mitchell of Trout River Industries. He tells his remarkable story of starting up a business in rural PEI that now has global reach. "I told people we were awesome and then had to prove it!" Check out the video below
The group identified forces impacting their solution building.
Day one closed with the questions summarizing people's current reality.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.