Musings on the Miramichi

Just got back from another fishing trip in the Miramichi. We put the canoe in about 15 kms out the Renous highway and paddled/fished down to the mouth.

Fun stuff. I caught the largest trout ever in my 38 years – he was 16 inches long and over two pounds. And he will be my wife’s dinner tonight – stuffed trout parmesan.

But I digress.

I always use these little jaunts to assess the state of the union in the Miramichi from the perspective of my colleague.

And he grows crankier by the day. First, he is upset that he flipped through what he termed as a large tourism book and saw virtually nothing about the Miramichi (in his opinion), he then listed off four or five other things and concluded that the government is out to screw the Miramichi.

From that, however; he started to get philosophical (he is, after all, a life long Tory). He waxed on and on about how the Miramichi needs to be cut off. It needs to, in his words, ‘sink or swim’. He believes the ‘welfare mentality’ nurtured in the ‘Chi for decades has sapped the region of initiative, drive and talent. He thinks that a radical approach is needed – that the region be cut off. No more pogey. No more welfare (or very limited, he says). No more funding ‘bad’ projects with taxpayer monies.

Then on the way home, I heard a CBC documentary on the use of the wind energy industry in the Gaspe. How, people want to work in the industry. How the manufacturing of turbines is done there. How Hydro Quebec is demanding of its suppliers that 60% of the economic benefits of the wind energy industry must accrue to the Gaspe. Refreshing. The creation of a new industry that wasn’t there before – that can replace – at least somewhat – the jobs lost in other industries. Cool.

And that’s what I say needs to happen in the Miramichi. We have got to get some new industries working up there. I agree that we don’t need more pogey. I just disagree that we have to abandon the ‘Chi just because there are some problems.

Where there are problems, that is when we should shine. When the economy is challenged, that should bring out the best in our government and community leaders – not the worst.

Bernard Lord and his posse of 20 and 30 somethings should get their arses in gear and work with that community on a long term strategy that includes some quick wins but plants the seeds for new industry development 10-20 or even 30 years down the road.

My friend tells me that are 300 ghost towns in Nevada. When the economic reason for the town to exist ended, so did the town. That is his recipe for Miramichi, Bathurst, et. al.

But I said to him and to you, with all due respect, towns and cities are more than just an economy. They are a community. They are families, friends, history, bonds, churches, civic centres, etc. etc. etc. When the economy that they were founded on stumbles or falls, it is up to the leaders of that community to do their darn’dest to try and bring in and generate new industries to gird up the community.

Is your life only about your pocket book?

I didn’t think so.

Neither is a community only about its economy.

And shame on us for reducing these communities to just that.