Keep­ing the faith

Fort McMurray Today - - COMMENT - THERESA WELLS To­day Columnist

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.

ROBERT MUR­RAY/FORT MCMUR­RAY TO­DAY/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

An aerial view of down­town Fort McMur­ray Alta. on Thurs­day May 4, 2017.

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