Rein­vig­o­rat­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties

Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence to rally those who be­lieve in small-town At­lantic Canada

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED -

For some, the line score on ru­ral At­lantic Canada is al­ready writ­ten. Our com­mu­ni­ties are too old and reliant on fail­ing tra­di­tional in­dus­tries. Our youth are leav­ing for big­ger pay­cheques in big­ger cen­tres. We are too de­pen­dent on the gov­ern­ment.

It is these gen­er­al­iza­tions that are driv­ing or­ga­niz­ers of a unique con­fer­ence to be held Oct. 3-5, 2013. The Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence, Ru­ral Re­de­fined will fo­cus on ru­ral is­sues and op­por­tu­ni­ties in an en­vi­ron­ment free of gov­ern­ment influence. But Ge­orge­town is not about crit­i­ciz­ing gov­ern­ment or failed pro­grams. It is about iden­ti­fy­ing the is­sues, pro­mot­ing so­lu­tions and en­gag­ing the peo­ple who can make change hap­pen on a lo­cal level in com­mu­ni­ties throughout At­lantic Canada.

“We be­lieve in our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and ru­ral peo­ple and we be­lieve com­mu­ni­ties can be rein­vig­o­rated. Our best days lie ahead of us, ” says Inez Forbes, pres­i­dent of News­pa­pers At­lantic, lead spon­sor of The Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence. “It will take hard work, but we will get there.”

The con­fer­ence name­sake is the cap­i­tal of Kings County, PEI, an idyl­lic community with a pop­u­la­tion of 675. Its story is not unique. The sawmill is closed. The ship­yard sits idle. It is in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to main­tain mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices. Yet the community has a spirit that de­fies its eco­nomic re­al­ity.

The Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence is about har­ness­ing the spirit that ex­ists in ev­ery ru­ral community and arm­ing those lo­cal lead­ers — some who are elected but many who are not — with ideas that they can trans­fer to their own com­mu­ni­ties. It is about ask­ing a sim­ple but pow­er­ful ques­tion: What does our community need to thrive?

News­pa­pers At­lantic is spear­head­ing the con­fer­ence be­cause its mem­bers col­lec­tively are the voice of ru­ral At­lantic Canada. News­pa­pers At­lantic rep­re­sents 70 community news­pa­pers with a com­bined weekly cir­cu­la­tion of more than 700,000.

Mem­bers are found in com­mu­ni­ties such as Port aux Basques, New­found­land and Labrador; Yar­mouth, Nova Sco­tia; Port Hawkesbury, Cape Bre­ton; Mi­ramichi, New Brunswick and Al­ber­ton, PEI.

Four pre­em­i­nent At­lantic Cana­di­ans have agreed to act as con­fer­ence co-chairs: Wade MacLauch­lan, West Cove­head, PEI, pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward; John Bragg, Colling­wood, NS, founder of Ox­ford Fine Foods, the largest blue­berry pro­ducer in the world; Gilles LePage, Cara­quet, NB, past CEO Mou­ve­ment des Caisses Pop­u­laires Aca­di­ennes; and Donna Butt, Trin­ity, New­found­land and Labrado, founder of Ris­ing Tide The­atre.

“The suc­cess of this con­fer­ence be­gins with bring­ing to­gether peo­ple and ideas from throughout the At­lantic re­gion, in a lively and sus­tained di­a­logue, thanks to the ini­tia­tive of News­pa­pers At­lantic” said con­fer­ence co-chair Wade MacLauch­lan. “Long-term suc­cess will come with a re­de­fined out­look for vi­tal ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, based on a strong sense of place and a com­mit­ment to con­front our chal­lenges and em­brace op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

An in­ter­ac­tive web­site (www.the- george­town­con­fer­ence.ca) has launched. It will fea­ture up­dates on our agenda and pro­mote busi­nesses and ideas that are flour­ish­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties.

Over the the com­ing months mem­bers of News­pa­pers At­lantic will un­der­take var­i­ous ini­tia­tives aimed at iden­ti­fy­ing lo­cal ideas and so­lu­tions that can be brought for­ward to The Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence. We want to hear your ideas for rein­vent­ing ru­ral At­lantic Canada. It’s easy to get in­volved. Contact The Com­pass with your sug­ges­tions and join the dis­cus­sion on­line or fol­low us on Face­book or twit­ter.

“I’m so proud News­pa­pers At­lantic is tak­ing the lead,” says Kevin His­cock, gen­eral man­ager of NL Week­lies with TC Me­dia, which in­cludes The Com­pass.

“No other or­ga­ni­za­tion is bet­ter suited to cham­pion the cause of rein­vig­o­rat­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. Our re­gion has never seen any­thing on this scale be­fore. The Ge­orge­town Con­fer­ence will be a dy­namic must at­tend event for any­one ded­i­cated to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.”

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