What’s going on? All we have are questions


What’s happening in this region? I know very little about McAdam, St. George, Back Bay, Blacks Harbour, Deer Island, Campobello, Grand Manan. My regular view takes in St. Andrews to St. Stephen-Calais and up the road to Fredericton and Saint John.

The last time I went to Grand Manan was a sightseeing trip with the family. Before that, it was working for the defense lawyer on the Grand Manan Five trial. And by the way, what’s happened as a result of that? Where is Ronnie Ross now? What is the drug and theft situation three years later? How much better is the policing on the island? Are there any more RCMP officers there? And what’s being done about strengthening and diversifying the local economy there?

Has anyone solved the lack of banking facilities on Campobello? I’ve never been over there, but from what I’ve read and seen online, it’s a pretty place with declining real estate values. Is anyone working to solve these issues?

And where is the coordinated economic development strategy for the region? I don’t see one coming from Enterprise Charlotte, though perhaps they have one we don’t know about. And where, in fact, are the development strategies for the towns? I know St. Andrews is trying to boost its tourism industry. But is that a strategy or a collection of tactics, such as bringing in tour boats and creating new events? Or even product development, such as renewing the Algonquin Hotel and creating a sustainable business case for the golf course? What about retirement living strategies, or developing the knowledge-based economy? And what happened to the St. Andrews Chamber of Commerce, and why was the tourism marketing agenda handed over to four of five main attractions instead of leaving it with the Chamber?

As for St. Stephen, has anyone figured out yet how the new civic centre is going to pay for itself? Where is the economic development plan for the town? And if there is one, why don’t we know about it?

What about our political (so-called) leaders? What are they doing, other than handing out government cheques before election time? Do any of them have real plans—as in a strategy—for improving the area? Or is it, as it seems to be, only about staying in power, whining about any criticism, or touting the ideological party line in letters to the editor?

More importantly, what is the future for our key industries: aquaculture, forest products, manufacturing, tourism and so on? What are we doing about the declining enrollment at the college in St. Andrews, for example? Or incubating value-added businesses attached to our core industries?

Why is it that I get the feeling we’re all flying blind here, living in a weird, aging retirement bubble? Do we actually have any plans—or even small notions—for keeping our kids here and gainfully occupied? Or is the real concern of parents to get their kids educated and get them the hell out of here?

I realize that the both the media and the local town administrators are trying their best to put a happy face on everything. And I suppose “boosterism” can be a good thing. But it can also become, in some cases, a campaign of well-meaning disinformation. As with the recent story in the Courier about the economic impact of Atlanticade, claiming that the event drew 10,000 visitors and generated over $3 million. And who was responsible for this information? The event organizers, who have a vested interest in promoting its future support in the region. At the very best, I suspect this information is based on creative guesswork rather than on any scientific data gathering during and following the event.

From where I’m sitting, there is only one strategic goal for the region: developing a healthy and sustainable economy in the region. Given the depressed real estate values in the area as compared to the rest of the country, generational crime and poverty, and the lack of high-quality employment opportunities, this should be the top priority for all of us.

What I would propose is the formation of a regional development forum, which, as its first step, would begin by touring the region and collecting views and information about the present state of our social and economic conditions. The second step would be creating a multi-disciplined board of directors tasked with creating a socio-economic development strategy for the entire Charlotte-Fundy Isles area. This strategy would be aimed at adding to the strengths of each part of the region, and indexing these into a larger, coordinated development plan.

The third part of the strategic plan would be implementation, which would require seeking the development funding to market and sell the opportunities of the region. The marketing effort would be aimed
at three primary audiences: our young people, potential businesses in the region, and potential investors outside the region.

Core targets for development would be food processing (value-added aquaculture), knowledge-based enterprises (attached to existing arts and sciences), transportation and small manufacturing (U.S. border proximity), retirement living (low real estate values, relaxed coastal living), and tourism infrastructure development (renewing hotels, regional connections, parks, ferries, cooperative regional marketing, etc.)

The only question remaining, I guess, is who is actually willing to start?


Popular Posts