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COMMENTARY: A message we cannot ignore


Last month the Canadian business magazine MoneySense published its 2017 ranking of “Canada’s best places to live.” It was based on a review of the standard of living and quality of life in over 400 towns and cities across the country.

Relevant information on these towns and cities was collected by Environics Analytics, Canada’s leading marketing analytics company, and is available on the magazine’s website.
The economic health of these communities was a major factor in the rankings so it comes as no surprise that Maritime town and cities were ranked far down the list. In the Cumberland-Colchester electoral district, the towns of Amherst and Truro disappointedly occupied #391 and #397 places respectively.
While both towns scored points for home affordability, health care and education accessibility, they scored few “economic health” points because of their high unemployment rates of 8.8 per cent versus the national average of 6.5 per cent.
It also didn’t help that both towns suffered a decline in population between 2012 and 2017, not an encouraging sign; and annual family incomes were calculated at $52k compared to $88k nationally.
Before we get too upset by these rankings, it’s safe to assume there was some arbitrariness in the assessment of each community’s strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it came to “quality of life” issues. Also, our towns’ data on employment and family income levels were undoubtedly understated given the underground economy that is very much alive in these parts.
Nevertheless, this study sends a clear message that we cannot afford to ignore when it comes to our perceived economic health. To its credit the Town of Amherst’s recent Strategic Priorities Report identifies economic growth as its number-one challenge by a wide margin.
The results of this ranking exercise should energize further action in this area. It’s been over a year and a half since the first enthusiastic Everyone Matters session many of us attended at the local firehall. And Amherst’s promising Strategic Priorities Report was issued some seven months ago, and it’s time for an update on progress since, to add to the news of the recent Connector CEO appointment.
We can also see from the MoneySense review a Toronto-centric interpretation of what makes for a decent quality of life. It’s predictable that a good dose of prosperity is typically seen as the cure-all for most ills in Canada’s largest city; and a culture of “having” versus one of “being” clearly prevails there, to borrow a thought from the philosopher Erich Fromm.
The truth is that the quality of life we enjoy in our communities, is a product of very different human motivations and is far superior to anything larger city life can provide.
I mean by this, the feeling of well-being that comes from living here. In my view, it derives from a strong sense of community and the way people, even strangers, show a quiet respect for and recognition of each other’s place in that community.
And the hearty sense of humour that is commonplace here brightens every day and really helps put our concerns in proper perspective. These are not qualities that characterize big city living.
I also applaud Amherst’s invitation to #seewhyweloveit. It is a brilliant statement of what we are all about. Our challenge is to expose more folk to a more authentic way of experiencing life so they may understand why we love it here.
And this is why a significant tourism initiative by the town is so essential, aside from its very real economic benefits. How else are people from away to catch the spirit of what we all are fortunate to share here?

Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at alanwalter@eastlink.ca.
 

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