Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Hopeful for a bright 2017 and beyond

Opinion

To the Editor:

Each approaching new year brings with it the hope of renewal and a fresh start. It is like getting a “do over” or a second chance at working on a problem or challenge that remained unfulfilled in the previous year.

Marshall McLuhan, the great Canadian media guru, is quoted as saying, “We view the future through a rear view mirror”. Although I subscribe to the theory that an understanding of past events is important in shaping the future, I don’t believe we are destined to repeat the past if there is a strong will for change.

I am optimistic about the new year simply because I believe this is the case in Pictou County. I interpret the defeat of the MOU process of last year not as a message that the majority of people in our county want to maintain the status quo but rather they did not like nor accept the process and the plan for change presented for their consideration. I do not think that means we simply throw up our hands and say, okay, let’s just continue with business as usual.

So the challenge for 2017 and beyond is how do we in Pictou County move, in a positive way, to harness the increased citizen engagement which emerged last year during the MOU debate. Now that we have a “do over,” how do we proceed and what will change look like?
The vote in May means that we still operate under a governance system comprised of six  councils, each representing a specific geographical area of the county as defined on a map over 100 years ago. With the downsizing of the County Council, we now have 39 municipal elected representatives in total in the five towns and county. So it is business as usual, but does it have to be?

Just because our governance structure remains unchanged it does not have to follow that we remain unchanged in our approach to governing in Pictou County. It can be as simple as a change in our mindset. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”– George Bernard Shaw.

As a starter, what if each of those 39 representatives considered themselves to be representatives of all the people in Pictou County and not just the geographic area in which they were elected and reside? I like to put it this way: I consider myself to be a citizen of Pictou County who happens to reside in the geographical area known as Westville!

Don’t get me wrong, I am honoured to be a councillor in the town of Westville and I understand the responsibility and necessity to make decisions based on what is good for the citizens of Westville. But that doesn’t mean I cannot support or express an opinion on matters that relate to other areas of the county. I truly believe that what is good for one area of the county is good for all of the county, including the Town of Westville.

One reason for my optimism is my involvement on the Economic Working Group. This is a group made up of two representatives from each of the six municipal units in Pictou County who believe it is imperative that we work together collectively to address the matter of economic development. It also touches on social development and yes even how we govern at the municipal level.

Another reason for my optimism is something I have written about before, the new slate of municipal councillors elected in October. There now exists a good balance of experience and new councillors at the municipal level in Pictou County. The Economic Working Group has plans to organize a meeting of all 39 municipal representatives in the near future to look at how we can best work together for the benefit of all of Pictou County.

I am not naive enough to think that we will all agree on everything, nor do I think that is healthy.

Opposing opinions and debate are part of the process of making good decisions. However, I am hopeful that we can all agree to respect each other’s opinions and develop a relationship based on trust.

With a foundation of respect and trust among your municipal leaders, I believe there is every reason to be hopeful for the future of Pictou County in 2017 and the ensuing years.

Lennie White
Deputy Mayor
Town of Westville

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