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Silver Donald Cameron

Welcome to Silver Donald Cameron’s blog! Dr Cameron is the author of 19 books and of many plays, films, magazine articles, radio and TV scripts. He is currently the host and executive producer of TheGreeninterview.com and of its feature documentary, Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World. In 2019, he was appointed the first Farley Mowat Chair in Environment at Cape Breton University, where he earlier served as professor, dean and writer-in-residence. He currently teaches an on-campus/online course called Green Rights.

What the Ivany Report didn’t say…

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Last Thursday I posted this note on Facebook: "Nova Scotia is losing people, and many small places are becoming ghost towns. But some are vibrant: Annapolis Royal, Tatamagouche — and, I would say, Parrsboro, having just spent two days there. A really important question: what are those towns doing right?" 

The conversation took off like a rocket: 75 likes, 11 shares, 50 or so comments, most of them very thoughtful. Some very astute Nova Scotians care about this, and know a lot about it. When I wondered aloud why the Ivany report hadn't asked this question, a friend passed me a draft section of the text that didn't make it into the eventual report, addressing this point exactly. 

I'm posting the draft below — and I hope that the conversation will move over to this blog. It shouldn't be left on FB to vanish and be forgotten.

So here's the missing section: 

New Economy Communities [profile boxes]

Lunenburg Area

The Town of Lunenburg and surrounding communities such as Mahone Bay and Bridgewater present encouraging examples of creative adaptive economy. Building on its heritage and natural assets, Lunenburg’s economy features a resilient mix of tourism and culture, artisanal production, large-scale seafood processing, and innovative companies such as Composite Atlantic (specializing in the design and manufacturing of structures for the aeronautic, space, and defense industries) and HB Studios (creator and manufacturer of video games).

Lunenburg was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995 and its core is also a National Historic Site of Canada. Tourism continues, with on-going effort and development, to bring an influx of visitors and revenue to local small businesses. Fresh perspectives and business starters have also been attracted to the area via creative initiatives such as Mahone Bay’s The Hub South Shore, an innovative co-working and networking site. Other creative spaces like The Makery and area farmers’ markets are at the core of creative community offerings helping to rejuvenate the area with youthful vitality and newcomers.

Collaborative structures in the business, voluntary, and municipal sectors are on-going drivers of development in the area. Add to this mix Bridgewater’s efforts around community engagement and sustainability and the result is a dynamic area of diversified economic activity: major employers rooted in community, creative small businesses, re-imagined primary industries, and globally oriented manufacturing.

Tatamagouche

Communities such as Chester and Mahone Bay no doubt thrive in part because of their proximity to Halifax; but even without obvious comparative advantages of geography or being near a large employer such as Michelin, where community capital is developed, recognized, and wisely invested there can be vibrant economy. Tatamagouche and surrounding area is one such place.

Tatamagouche:

  • has no dominant major employer;

  • is not located in the MIZ (metro influence zone) or off a major highway (in fact, it must deal with spring road weight restrictions and frequent winter weather closures);

  • features largely seasonal employment in the traditional sectors of forestry, fishing, farming, tourism;

  • does not have a university or NSCC campus in the vicinity;

  • no federal or provincial government principal offices.

 

Despite these things, the Village of Tatamagouche:

  • grew 9.1% (full time population) between the last 2 censuses (2006 – 2011) while the overall population of NS grew by only 0.9%.

  • has thriving small schools, new library, and a fire service with a waiting list of volunteers,

  • has a local currency to promote local exchange, a development co-op;

  • boasts an innovative all-electric car fuelling station coupled with community supported (CEDIF and COMFIT) wind development for green power, new businesses such as a micro-brewery;

  • has a vibrant recreation, arts, and community events scene;

  • has diverse businesses, including staples such as a pharmacy, hardware store, gas station, credit union, grocery store – family run mill, pottery studio and store, restaurants;

  • developed the Fraser Cultural Centre and the ambitious Creamery Square Project, each repurposing existing structures. Creamery Square is supported by generated revenue, as well as government and philanthropic assistance. The site merges old and new, seasonal and full-time residents, and visitors in its Farmers’ Market, heritage and boatbuilding museums, and new arts centre;

  • features niche tourism ventures such as the Train Station Inn;

  • has become an organic and artisan food and farming hub

  • draws visitors with its Dorje Denma Ling Shambhala Centre, Tatamagouche Centre, and Tim Horton Children’s Camp.

 

Community life in the Tatamagouche area is palpably interactive. Their on-going nurturing of social capital and engagement can be seen as the secret sauce that brings the other ingredients together. The community, with creative enterprising leadership, has found ways to overlap circles of collaboration; not by insisting on consensus and uniformity, but by finding enough common ground and purpose within diversity to move forward — innovating, growing, and preserving. Their social capital has allowed them to make the most of their investments of their financial, natural, built, and human capital.

Unique communities around the province are finding ways to navigate the rapids of social and economic change. The Tatamagouche example is not a template nor meant to suggest theirs is a community without on-going economic challenges, but observing some of its characteristics through the lens of community capital is informative and inspiring.

Sydney and Cape Breton

There are many ways to define community apart from municipal designation of geography and governance. There are communities of culture, meaning people who share common elements of identity such as language and heritage, for instance, the Acadian community. There are communities of interest, for instance, in Nova Scotia there is an active birding community. Communities of place can find strength in both similarity and diversity. Cape Breton is a place of collective identity that is both rooted in its history and in constant re-invention. With Sydney at its core, it forms a distinct community within the larger community known as Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton’s economy encapsulates the challenges of finding renewal in the face of major shifts away from primary industry and government-driven economic development. But beyond the struggles indicated by demographic and employment measurements, there are many signs pointing to Cape Breton’s promise of a burgeoning new economy. Some highlights:

  • strong co-operatives and companies such as Louisburg Seafoods competing in a globally-oriented seafood sector;

  • world-renowned recreational and creative tourism economy ventures such as Celtic Colours Festival and Cabot Links golf resort;

  • the Cape Breton Island and Mulgrave Integrated Strategic Framework of Economic Prosperity and other local region collaborative efforts such as the Top of the Island Development Committee;

  • New Dawn Enterprises is one of Canada’s most innovative and successful Community Development Corporations;

  • Cape Breton University is a leader in sustainability initiatives, international student attraction, and global business partnering;

  • a bustling knowledge economy start-up community forming around incubation hubs such as Venture Solutions facility at Sydport.