Federation of Canadian Municipalities hosts seminar on lessons learned from last fallâ€™s Georgetown Conference on redefining rural
Real change comes from within.
© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Paul MacNeill, publisher of Island Press Ltd., says people want to be engaged and want to take about growing their communities. MacNeill was a panel member at a seminar hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Charlottetown on Wednesday that was moderated by Beth Sanders, a board member with the Canadian Institute of Planners.
That seemed to be the essential theme at a meeting in Charlottetown on Wednesday to discuss stories and lessons from last Octoberâ€™s Georgetown Conference.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is holding its annual sustainable communities conference and trade show in the P.E.I. capital this week, involving hundreds of delegates.
Beth Sanders, a board member with the Canadian Institute of Planners, moderated a panel that included Paul MacNeill, publisher of Island Press Ltd. in Montague; Yarmouth, N.S. Mayor Pam Mood; and Jim Mustard, deputy warden of the municipality of the County of Inverness, N.S.
If there was one thing to take away from the meeting itâ€™s that if people want change, real change in their communities, that change starts with them getting involved.
â€œPeople are starved for leadership,â€™â€™ MacNeill said when referring to the big lesson he took away from the Georgetown Conference on redefining life in rural P.E.I. And he wasnâ€™t talking about traditional leadership found in political circles.
Mood said people in the community want to be involved and get involved and one of her jobs is to find ways to make that happen.
â€œYou need to engage them to do what they want to do anyway,â€™â€™ Mood said. â€œâ€˜Canâ€™tâ€™ and â€˜status quoâ€™ are four-letter words in my house.â€™â€™
She said instead of complaining about living in a messy community, to use an example, do something about it.
Mustard said when it comes to getting people involved he suggested municipalities get away from the approach where meetings are held to discuss issues and then everyone goes home and donâ€™t talk again until the next issues-related meeting.
â€œThe power base is the people - the doctors, the gas station workers, the people who run our arenas and the people who volunteer to do our palliative care,â€™â€™ Mustard said. â€œThose are the people who need the power and belief that governance is theirs and we facilitate it. Iâ€™m not there to make decisions up on my ivory tower.â€™â€™
MacNeill said councils will often discuss the big issues but very little attention is put on actually growing the community.
â€œSilos are killing us. What Georgetown wants is an opportunity for community individuals to come together in a non-crisis format so they can actually discuss issues of importance to the community and ways to grow the community.â€™â€™
MacNeill also addressed the issue of losing youth to jobs out west by saying rather than trying to give them a reason to stay, why not focus on giving them reasons to come back.
Mustard said the bottom line is people need to feel welcome.
â€œHang up your hat and become a citizen. Weâ€™re not nurses, doctors and lawyers. We are citizens, we are neighbours.â€™â€™