In February 2014 a small group of people met to explore how Lunenburg County could respond to the recommendations of the Ivany Report. Out of those early morning meetings came NOW Lunenburg County; a citizen lead group (Core Team) focused on the economic sustainability of Lunenburg County.
The Core Team eventually arrived at population growth as critical to a viable future for our community, Tina Hennigar was hired as the Population Growth Coordinator in September 2016.
The cross Canada tour in 2017 inviting people to move to Lunenburg County was an audacious and bold strategy to address population growth. Not only did it create interest from across Canada but helped generate excitement and recognition for the work we were undertaking in our own community.
The Tour provided insights on the barriers impacting population growth – inadequate broadband service and lack of physicians and primary health care providers. NOW took on these big issues.
NOW-Net was established. The group developed plans for a community owned cooperative delivering broadband service throughout the county. The group advocated extensively with municipal, provincial and federal governments for improved access and service quality. Internet service and access has improved, still lots of work that needs to be done but more people have been provided with the opportunity for service than prior to 2018.
A local committee, including physicians and Doctors Nova Scotia, helped support and guide the work around physician recruitment and retention. Through our work with the NS Health Authority and Dalhousie University we were able to establish the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC) program which introduces medical students to our community by providing training in local hospitals for 48 weeks.
On a daily basis Tina connected with people who were interested in moving here or were newcomers to the area. She helped find housing, schools, volunteer opportunities and employment and for many became their first new friend in Lunenburg County. In late 2021 NOW came to a fork in the road after two significant events. After two successful years of support our funding request for physician and health care professional recruitment provided by the Health Services Foundation was denied. The Foundation will be undertaking this work on their own.
Just prior to Christmas, Tina accepted an offer from the Office of Immigration and Population Growth to manage a new initiative. The province is establishing a team of community navigators to work on population growth modelled in many ways on NOW Lunenburg County’s approach. Tina will lead the group and provide input to the team on strategy.
And then… after lengthy discussion the Core Team agreed that this is the right time to end our work, celebrate our accomplishments and chronicle what we’ve learned. We have always believed strongly we should not duplicate the work of others and we look forward to sharing what we’ve learned.
The influence of NOW’s work and learning on population growth will be felt throughout the province through Tina’s leadership. Influencing government policy is a significant accomplishment and we believe the fingerprints of NOW will be evident in future population growth campaigns and supporting activities.
Having the community more broadly engaged in physician recruitment and retention was also one of our goals. We believe the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore is stepping up to lead this work.
While there is much to celebrate, for those of us who have been involved from the beginning, the end of NOW is bittersweet. We have met on Wednesdays at 7:30 am for over seven years - we will miss each other and our work. It has been an incredible experience in community engagement, development, and change.
To all of you who have been our cheerleaders, our funders, our allies and confidants THANK YOU. The work could not have been done without your help. Elspeth McLean-Wile on Behalf of the Core Team Lynn Hennigar, Tina Hennigar, Mary Ann Hiltz, Jackie MacDonald Mark Powell and Bill Schurman