‘Younger blood is the best thing that can happen to us’
Councils, mayors say young people needed in municipal politics
After eight years on council, Maggie Chambers was hoping some fresh blood would step up to the plate.
With a need for two additional councillors, the Town of Flower’s Cove held its byelection on Oct. 18.
Chambers encouraged others to get involved, but said if no one did she would return to her seat on council.
“The town did a lot of outreach and advertised,” said Chambers. “I phoned people and talked about it. We heard inklings that people were going to come forward – but nobody did.”
Chambers held off on her decision until the morning of the byelection. After no one else turned up, she was sworn in as the fourth member of town council at 8 p.m. that evening.
Chambers says she was interested in returning to council, but waited for the byelection in hopes a younger person would take her spot.
“We’re aging now, and we need new people to come in,” she said. “There’s a lot of young people that could step up, but they just lay back and wait for things to happen, rather than make them happen.
Drive is lacking
Didier Naulleau is mayor of Pinware, a small Labrador community with fewer than 100 residents. Because Pinware is located close to a provincial park, Naulleau says there is opportunity for growth but with an aging demographic, the drive is lacking.
“I think the potential is there, but the interest is not,” said Naulleau. “There are business opportunities if people are willing to stay and establish something.”
Naulleau says businesses like cabins or a bed and breakfast would be ideal for the town, as well as a business that caters to park visitors in the summer. The park has even reached out to Naulleau in hopes of collaborating with the town, but Naulleau says Pinware has little chance of swaying government to help fund businesses and projects with such a small population.
“Pinware has to fight government on everything,” he said. “And I understand with less than 100 people, it’s tough to win them over.”
Pinware still has a few young people and even two babies on the way. While it would be ideal to have younger people start these projects, Naulleau says they are often the last to get the support needed to do so.
“Young people don’t have the financial support. If they go to a bank asking for a loan with little experience and little money, they’ll be denied on the spot,” Naulleau said.
“But they want to develop these kinds of things. Most of the young people would want to start something along the lines of a bed and breakfast, which would be best for here.”
Motivating young people in these areas has been tough. Like many parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, Naulleau says without any economic incentives, most hitting adulthood will move on for work or schooling.
“Last year, we lost our deputy mayor to a nursing school, and he said, ‘you will probably not see me for another 20 years,’” said Naulleau. “I don’t think we have quite grasped the need to hold onto our young people.”
Pinware has encouraged younger people in the community to get more involved, like a recent initiative to get high school students to choose a foosball table for the town.
“It’s way to drive the young lads into municipal politics, and give them the impression that their decisions have an impact on the future,” said Naulleau.
Flower’s Cove’s council will now forge ahead with its four members. Chambers feels the current situation reinforces the need for younger people to get involved.
“Our mayor now has been there a long while, but sometimes you need a shadow,” Chambers said. “You need new people to take that role.”
With younger people in their early 20s taking seats on council in towns like Port Saunders and L’anse au Loup, there are signs the tide is turning. Naulleau says no one wants to see these communities die, but there is a desperate need for a new generation of ideas.
“Younger blood is the best thing that can happen to us, it’s what we need right now,” Naulleau said. “We need them to get interested in municipal politics in the future. They can push further than the limited vision that our elders have had.”
Maggie Chambers waited until the morning of Flower’s Cove’s byelection to return to council. She waited it out, hoping some newer faces would take her spot, but she says the interest is not there.
Pinware mayor Didier Naulleau says some initiatives have been completed to encourage young people to get involved with community issues. But with a town of less than 100 people, getting funding for future development is tough.