After decades of a welfare/dependency approach to Canada’s aboriginal community, the focus is now on self sufficiency. Because, we realize that money alone will not solve any community’s problems. What’s needed is a broader sense of belonging – of relevance – of contribution. Without this, communities – no matter how much they are propped up – will slide into oblivion.
We are going down the same path with our rural communities that we did with our aboriginal communities. And the output is starting to look similar. Increasing gaps in education (in many NB rural communities the adult population has less than a 50% high school graduation rate – and the gap is worsening); increasing out-migration of the youth who are not willing to settle for the welfare model; an increasing sense of dispair and the resultant social problems such as increasing drug use (just ask the Mayor of Miramichi) and most importantly, declining business investment.
You see, it wasn’t that long ago that our rural communities were teeming with hard working individuals known for their work ethic and loyalty. Now, it is becoming almost impossible to get good employees in rural New Brunswick without paying an ‘EI premium’ wage. In addition, we are encouraging people to work ‘under the table’ and live in a constant state of worry that someone will find out. And the people with any ‘get up and go’, as the saying goes, already ‘got up and left’.
Do we want to accelerate the decline of our rural communities? Do we just want to ease the pain as these communities die?
Or will we finally realize that the issue must be self-sufficiency. Not just for economic reasons, but for community pride, for social harmony, for hope, for optimism, for the very survival of our province and our way of life.
Please take my advice, policy makers and politicians. Inject the best economic developers into these communities – not the worst. Inject investment – not welfare. Attract long term private sector partners (offering year round employment) – not short term, tourism/seasonal jobs.
And if roads are an impediment – build new ones. If education is an impediment – give it away for free. If technology is a problem – give is away for free.
It will be cheaper, trust me, than the alternative.