Mayor’s corner: John Spencer, Channel-Port aux Basques
On the town’s changing demographics, its future, the economy, and why it’s one of the best places in Canada to live
Port aux Basques being ranked third through a Canadian Community Health and General Social Survey poll of some 400,000 respondents among the best places in Canada to live is no real surprise. Port aux Basques has always been a wonderful place to live and raise a family. My goal, as Mayor, is to work diligently to continue moving our town forward. We are the gateway for the province, and as such, we must lead by example. Others need to learn of our best kept secret. Port aux Basques is a great place to be. Small communities such as ours are the happiest places to live in Canada.
Our council is committed to moving the town forward. You have chosen a great team. This summer season will see close to $4 million in council-driven improvements within town. The hallmark of such work will be the start of a new municipal garage. This is not only necessary but a key feature to beautify and promote the downtown core. Such work would not be possible if it were not for the excellent collaboration the town receives from our provincial and federal counterparts. Your MHA and MP have this town, and region, high on the list of priorities. The combined hard work of the three levels of government will result in residents seeing improvements in infrastructure, beautification and new opportunities for growth.
Changing demographics have impacted our town. This does not make us unique for it has impacted the whole province. We are an aging population with the majority of our residents over 50. However, this has not slowed us down. We have continued to adopt change in a positive manner. Gateway Village Corporation is an excellent example of council addressing the dynamics of change. Our town may be smaller in number but as large in heart, and vitality, as at any time in our community’s history. A visit to Grand Bay West Beach, the Bruce or our local senior’s club provides glowing examples of our energy for life. The wind and rain can at times knock us down, but it won’t keep us there.
Local governance has changed. Today, more than any time since the town’s incorporation in 1945, decisions of council are more open, transparent and available. Social media has become the new connectivity with Facebook at the helm. Council has embraced this technology. Council serves a resident population that is cognizant and vigilant of municipal government’s day-to-day operations. As community representatives, we must ensure a model of governance that is both open, accountable and receptive.
Even though social media has diminished the role of print media there will always be a place for it. I am not sure of how it will look a decade from now, but one can never underestimate the value of print journalism. Sadly, though, community newspapers, such as the paper in Moose Jaw, SK, and many others, have bitten the bullet in the transition.
Economic challenges are always evident. Council must work to identify new opportunities without diminishing the value of what we currently have. Marine Atlantic has indeed been a strong corporate citizen. A position at Marine Atlantic does create multiple growth in our service sector. Council anticipates a renewed physical presence by this corporation within our boundaries. However, council must not become complacent. Council has to partner to find the new dollars. Municipal budgets need a strong tax base. The town grows when new business is attracted. Driving by the old hardware store site in the Water Street area is proof positive of the value of small business enterprises. As well, there are other new developments on the horizon. It can be a slow, ever-demanding process, but
invariability new business will strengthen the economic base of the town. Council has to be prepared to nurture and embrace each opportunity.
For example, we all know the town garage is slated for a physical move. This initiative, which started in the 1990s, will happen. It will allow for utilization of the present location to be part of a focus on downtown revitalization. The other projects—repairs to water and sewage, storm sewer, the arena, etc.—are all part of cost-sharing government projects related to capital works. There are no new larger scale economic projects on the horizon.
Unfortunately, Talon is gone. This company was great in the short time it was here. The downturn in the oil industry has impacted us all. As an example, a local business involved in a contract with a large Atlantic oil corporation closed shop after it lost a contract. The loss of even
one business hurts.
Port aux Basques more than any time in its history has evolved as a regional service centre. Residents from all over the southwest coast utilize services. This will continue to grow. We are a region, and as such, need each other to pool resources to meet challenges. More than anything, the new waste management strategy is an excellent example of regional cooperation. We can all learn from this government initiative to improve the quality of life and clean up the environment along the entire southwest coast. Cooperation between communities has to be key.
In closing, we are indeed blessed. We are fortunate to call the richly diverse southwest coast region our home. Where else in this great nation can you walk the street with a smile; have a conversation where you always reference the weather; or escape to some quiet fishing spot, a beach or a noisy campfire all within twenty minutes? It is a lifestyle that many who live in the concrete jungles can only dream about. For that, we must be thankful.
Proudly, area residents stand tall when they see a need. This was demonstrated in spades recently by SCUBA divers taking an initiative to clean up the harbour. As well, individuals have come forward taking ownership of beaches, flower planters, colourful waste containers and benches. “It looks good,” they say. “But here is what you can do?” Council needs those gentle reminders of keeping things spruced. The community sense of volunteerism has always been strong and is truly appreciated. For me, as your Mayor, there is no other way that I would like to have it. For there is no place like home, and no place other than the southwest coast that I would rather be.
Port aux Basques mayor John Spencer.