STELLARTON – Pictou County has the most involved people wanting to make a difference in the province.
Engage Nova Scotia conducted a study which showed 8.1 per cent of Pictou County residents have a personal commitment to working to make Nova Scotia a better place, above the provincial mean of 7.7 per cent.
Those in Pictou County who attended the Engage Nova Scotia CBC MainStreet taping at the Museum of Industry last week voted unanimously that people are the best thing about this province.
This was the third of four sessions hosted in the province by the registered charity that has been working with the public for the last year and a half.
Engage Nova Scotia started four years ago because a group of passionate people felt they could have an important conversation about the values of Nova Scotians.
Danny Graham, chief engagement officer with Engage Nova Scotia, said the area was chosen as one of four to host this event because “it appears to be a hotbed of citizen engagement and is one of the important economic and social centres of the province.”
Graham said the idea behind the sessions was to get people talking.
“We think in order for Nova Scotians to realize their full potential, they need to understand who they are and what they are and how to get there. As a Nova Scotian, I believe there is an untapped willingness amongst Nova Scotians to roll up their sleeves and make the province a better place to live. This is an opportunity for people to build the potential for that to happen.”
Graham noted it’s up to Pictou County to decide what steps to take and the hope is that “through this conversation there will be a deeper understanding across a broad range of perspectives, regardless of where someone stood on the plebiscite question.”
He acknowledged this is a community “in deep conversation and sometimes painful conversation about (change).”
The 65 people in attendance were asked to sit randomly at tables where they discussed a question before sharing the answers with the group and then moving on to another table to discuss the second and final question.
The first question was, ‘What makes Pictou County special? And How could we build on those things in order to grow?’
Ken Fraser said Pictou County has a really good volunteer base and that is very special to the county.
Another resident in attendance noted that he moved to the area from Ontario four years ago and says the first thing that struck him about the area was the amount of music here and through that he was able to see how kind the people are here. However, in trying to set up his small business, he noted it was very difficult to find any information.
Nancy McConnell-Maxner said she was surprised by the diversity around the table in terms of the different sides of the amalgamation issue and noted, “I learned through this whole experience that we are not apathetic, we are passionate about our community. If we got these two divided sides together in a conversation, what an amazing thing we could build.”
The second question was ‘How might we work together to overcome barriers and create a thriving community?’
Many of those present felt there was a level of distrust or lack of transparency with the local levels of government.
Santina Weatherby, a resident of River John, made the point that, “how come I, 25 years old, on social media constantly and am fairly engaged in my community, feel like I don’t know what’s going on (in my community)?”
Lynn MacDonald said, “I think what we need to do is put this amalgamation issue behind us…”
Trudy Vince felt it would be crucial for us as Nova Scotians to adjust our expectations.
“They seem to be very high right now for people. I’m mostly talking about job opportunities (and willingness to work)…”
As for what happens now, Graham says if the people of Pictou County have set priorities and want to move in a direction related to those, Engage Nova Scotia will be there to help along the way as they did in Cumberland County.
A report will be created from the session and shared with anyone willing to take that information and move forward.
Above photo: Shawn Ryan of CBC records some of the open discussion between Frank MacFarlane, Lynn MacDonald and Marion MacInnis for CBC’s MainStreet at the recent Engage Nova Scotia session. (Harvie photo)