Happy smiling group of young friends staying together outdoor in the park

One month down and eleven more to go, and already we’re seeing some movement in this green and growing community of ours. Ideas are being expressed publicly, debated, even stolen from others in some cases. But we’re talking together, throwing out possibilities, taking a closer look at where we’re at, and where we think we might go from here.

In this week’s issue, we have an article about co-operatives, a letter about not waiting for others to get started, and we’ve already heard from the Mayor and Warden about amalgamation possibilities. It is quite encouraging that a lot of the discussion includes individuals who had run for Council (twice!) But remain involved in the dialogue. It is equally encouraging to see the municipality, both council and staff, open to that dialogue and prepared to enter into the process in a more approachable manner.

The bottom line of all of this is that we may be starting to understand that we’re all in this together, that we can’t afford to leave anyone out, because this country, province and municipality is going through a time of challenge and change, of possibilities and options. If our elected representatives are to lead the way through the political and structural changes that seem to be heading our way, then they need the support and involvement of the community. It is no longer enough for that side of the social equation to believe they can do it alone, and that public involvement would be interference.

But if the community is to play that role, they need to have confidence in the political and bureaucratic element too. And that only comes when we feel we are being kept informed, included and genuinely consulted. That seems to be happening now in a way that hasn’t been the case before. The key, always, is to be informed, otherwise informed consent is impossible, and informed consent from the people is what the municipality really need to keep going.

There are, of course, still many obstacles in the way of a true democratic, community-based system. The past casts a long and dark shadow, and it is not easy to let go of suspicion and cynicism. It is not easy to learn to trust one another and give one another the benefit of the doubt. But it is essential.

There are people we need to work with whose ideas and philosophy we deeply disagree. There are so many divisions, both natural and artificial, to which we have to cater. It is not a matter of all becoming alike and in agreement on everything; but more the development of consensus and compromise. No one side will win everything, there will not be a completely satisfactory outcome for everyone. That doesn’t happen in the real world.

But urban and rural ambitions and identities need to be respected and allowed for. There are too many people being left behind in our rush towards economic growth. Poverty exists in our community, and we need to identify its scope, its nature and its causes. We all have differing motivations: some just want to make money, others want to see a just society coming out of all of this turmoil. Some will want the emphasis to be on solid economic development as we have been seeing it: urbanisation, commercial and residential growth. Others will demand that we rethink some of those goals and ask whether we are losing our identity, our soul, in the process. Will we share ideas, or just steal them; listen to them, or dismiss them out of hand?

And there are, of course, the cynics and manipulators who will always see hidden agendas in the “others”, always wonder what’s really behind the apparent transparency. Some will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and that is another problem we face. This community is changing, and will change a great deal more in the coming decade, as population increases, issues become ever more complicated, and the possibility of a growing divide between winners and losers in the economic race grows ever more likely.

But it has always been that way. We are not the first generation, and we may not be the last. What we build and destroy today will be the inheritance we leave for our children. Will it have anything of the traditional rural, small-town character we were drawn to here, or will we leave them a concrete wasteland like so many parts of our cities? Time doesn’t stand still. Our very planet is in danger unless we stop and think. Will we have the vision, the courage and the humility to listen to each other, perhaps even change our way of thinking, and remake our community in ways that reflect who were want to be?

We make the future in our own image and likeness by the decisions we make collectively: what will that image show about us?

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