Keeping the faith
The last four years in Fort McMurray have been both the best of times and the worst of times; when the last municipal election was held, our economic outlook was still quite rosy and it seemed like unfettered growth in both population and economy was in the cards. Then, not long after, the wheels began to fall off the wagon in our region.
The price of oil began a free fall, and along with it went projects and jobs and overtime pay and bonuses; and while we were still struggling to find our equilibrium from this sudden change, a massive wildfire swept through our community.
The rise and fall of the economy was perhaps predictable and understandable; after all, this happens in communities where the economy is based primarily on one resource and industry. Less predictable was the Horse River Fire, which simply compounded the shaken faith we were already experiencing as it destroyed homes, hearts and neighbourhoods.
Is it any wonder our confidence and faith has been shaken? I don’t know if it has happened to anyone else; maybe I alone have experienced a crisis of faith in the last two years, one ranging from faith in myself to faith in our leaders and our community, but I do not think I am alone. In fact, from the numbers of people who have chosen to leave this community to seek opportunity elsewhere and who have told me why they have done so, I am quite certain I am not alone.
It is hard to keep the faith when it seems the deck has been stacked against you. From the drop in the price of oil to the fire, it is easy to feel as if we have been backed into a corner, with residents still not in their homes, and some of those who are in their homes struggling financially to cope with the new reality.
And yet, there is hope. We are on the cusp of something new, a new government filled with elected representatives who cannot fix everything but who I believe have a tremendous responsibility: to restore our faith.
Leadership is about more that making good decisions. It is about building confidence, trust and faith in those who follow you, and at this point in our history we need leaders more than ever before. We need leaders who can not only keep the faith in our region and our communities, but rebuild it in just the way we must rebuild the physical homes that were lost to the flames.
Our faith has been damaged in this region, let there be no doubt. It has been frayed by so many different events and circumstances, and now our next leaders face a tremendous task: restoring the faith. It will be a challenge. There are those who have lost faith entirely, and those for whom it is weakening rapidly. It is a critical time for our region, and our next leaders in government face many monumental tasks, but this one is perhaps unique. Restoration of faith will take time; it will take commitment and dedication and a lot of hard work, but I am keeping the faith that it can, and will, be accomplished.
An aerial view of downtown Fort McMurray Alta. on Thursday May 4, 2017.