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

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News -

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.

J. R. ROY / SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Port aux Basques mayor John Spencer.

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