In 2016, long-time newspaper publisher in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.), Paul MacNeil, organized Georgetown 2.0 and wanted a strong speaker to push business and community leaders outside their comfort zone—local author and consultant, Doug Griffiths became that speaker and his book
“Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community”, became their inspiration.
In the last four years, P.E.I. has led the country in economic growth and the Conference Board of Canada said it will continue to outpace all other provinces in terms of GDP and population growth in 2020.
The issues facing P.E.I. included a shrinking and ageing population, the economic ups and downs of fishing, farming and tourism, and rising discomfort as neighbouring communities were being forced to negotiate shared governance and services as provincial budgets shrunk.
East Central Alberta 2020 looks eerily similar to P.E.I. 2015.
Our municipalities are being disproportionately hurt by provincial budget cuts, oil fields have matured and agriculture has great opportunities but many uncontrollable challenges.
Cooperative governance and service delivery, or even amalgamation of counties and towns, maybe on the provincial agenda to further cut administration costs.
Griffiths argues our municipal boundaries drawn 100 years ago do not reflect today’s connected world and too often function as little fiefdoms of power competing with each other rather than uniting to take on the world.
In this newspaper, we read how the community of Morrin is tearing itself apart as two factions spend all their time and energy on negative gossip (often based on incorrect or made-up information), and have nothing left to advance their community.
We saw some positive hope when Clearview School Board took the initiative, on an informal basis, to bring together the six school boards in the Battle River riding and commit to work with MLA Nate Horner by providing facts and analyses on the effects of budget cuts to local schools.
On a micro-level we saw a group of volunteers from Wm. E. Hay Fundraising Society run from county to town to school board in Stettler seeking donations for the community Stettler Performing Arts Centre.
During their presentation at Clearview they said the town would give more, depending upon what Clearview gave.
This is not a criticism specifically of the Town of Stettler, this is the reality that reporters hear often as we attend county and town meetings.
It’s a well-ingrained way of thinking about the small ‘me’, not the large ‘we’.
Hanna is going through a transformation with their coal power plant being repurposed to natural gas.
The leaders of the community could have said, “woe is me, my world is ruined”.
They could have become bitter, backward thinking and died on the vine like so many coal mine towns in the U.S. But they chose to become a Sparwood or Kimberly, B.C., towns that took mine closings in stride, with much gnashing of teeth, and looked for other attributes in their regions to promote growth and stability.
Hanna hired Doug Griffiths and chose to do something rather than nothing. “Look forward, not backward,” said Griffiths at a community forum on November 28, “The only thing holding you guys back is mindset.”
Hanna and region have embraced the future.
P.E.I. turned their fortunes around by embracing international migrants—a group of highly motivated displaced persons with education and drive, willing to work hard and take entrepreneurial risks.
The population growth consequently resulted in strong growth in construction and elevated demand for P.E.I. products, boosting exports and manufacturing.
Yes, it takes hard work, but for P.E.I. and Hanna, mindset change was the first and most important starting point.