A lament for Belledune

Belledune is back in the news again. A new study produced by the government found that there are elevated levels of lead and other contaminants in the area and that the chance of getting cancer is much higher in the area.

I continue to ask myself how things fell apart up there. It was not very long ago that there was an aggressive strategy to build the Port of Belledune into a major economic generator. There were a number of key business leaders involved in the building of an environmental industries park that was to create hundreds of good paying jobs.

Now, businesses won’t touch that area with a ten foot poll and the residents are either talking about leaving or saying they can’t leave because no one will buy their houses.

Belledune’s population had already dropped by 6.7% from 1996 to 2001. Now who knows how far it will fall.

It’s a shame.

The business climate in Belledune and much of northern New Brunswick is more poisoned now than the ground and water ever was. Further, that poison will be far more damning to the future of Belledune than any particulate contiminants.

We may be witnessing the beginning of the end for a community that was originally settled in 1824.

But it’s not too late. The community needs to shake off the recent past (deal with it – of course) and chart a new path to economic success. Re-initiate plans for the Port. Lobby hard to get a four lane highway built to Moncton to open up trade. Re-initiate plans for the environmental industries park.

(By the way, here’s a tip for free. The next time a company like Bennett wants to set up there, complete a full environmental assessment, please. Bennett was the fuse that has set fire to that community and it may have been avoided if that assessment had been done and the results published – one way or the other.)

Most of all, no matter how hard it is, the people of Belledune have got to shake this off and get positive about their community. They have to to exude a spirit of optimism and belief that the best days are ahead.

Or else.