By Eric Bourque
At the start of a public meeting designed to gather input towards the creation of an economic development plan for the Municipality of Argyle, the participants were asked to consider where they feel the municipality is now and where they would like it to be in about a decade’s time.
Various issues were raised over the next 90 minutes or so, including concern over the out-migration of young people and the need for more jobs to help encourage those young people to stay or maybe come back.
The loss of transportation services was cited as a major issue and participants also brought up the challenges facing the fishing industry, notably the lobster fishery.
From a tourism perspective, participants said more needs to be done to promote the municipality, particularly its Acadian culture and heritage.
And while there was a good deal of talk about youth – i.e. the exodus of young people from the local area to find work – last week’s discussion also highlighted the needs of the growing senior population. There was talk, for example, of creating an environment in the municipality that is more “age friendly.”
The lack of physicians was raised too, participants in the discussion citing doctor recruitment as an example of something that could help attract people to the area.
Ultimately, while most everyone acknowledges the need for services and infrastructure – the types of things that will encourage people to live here – it all seems to come down to the economy and jobs, said Allister Surette, president of Université Sainte-Anne and one of those who turned out for last Monday’s meeting in Tusket.
It’s one thing for people to receive education and training, he said, but if there are no employment opportunities here for them to put that education and training to use, what’s to keep them from leaving?
Another recurring theme during last week’s session was marketing, participants saying the area should be getting the word out about what it has to offer, preferably in a way that sets the municipality apart by highlighting its unique features.
And it’s not just the message that’s important, said Réal Boudreau, another participant in last week’s discussion. Holding up a smartphone to make his point, he noted the importance of social media these days in getting the word out about anything.
Chris Lowe, who served as facilitator for last Monday’s discussion, said the consultants will prepare a report that will look at “what should be done over the next 10 years to grow the local economy, create employment and have youth come back and to grow the commercial tax base.”
The consultants were just getting started on this project, he said, and will be finished their work by the end of March.
Asked after last Monday’s meeting at the Par-en-Bas school for his impressions of what he had heard so far from people in the Municipality of Argyle, he spoke of their “enthusiasm about the future” and of their “very deep understanding of how the area fits into the resource cycle … and how the area fits into the regional and outside economy.”