Dispatches from Canada's Incredible Shrinking Region - Part 3

Dispatch 3 - Paul Black

Dear friends, it is I - haunter of your Facebook feed, eager tweeter - back for more dispatches. As a refresher to those new to the series, recently, The Globe and Mail published an article titled: How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region. 

The sugar Maple at Windhorse Farm in Nova Scotia.

The sugar Maple at Windhorse Farm in Nova Scotia.

I believe, as do many others, something can and must be done to fight the shrink. We must help ourselves and make bold and hard choices. Step 1 of any major change is collecting smart ideas from different perspectives, which brings us to this series. And now, without further rambling, I introduce you to someone whose opinions I have valued since the age of twelve. Here are Paul Black's ideas.


Principal Dot Connector, Fisherwick Collaborations

Why I choose to live in Canada’s “incredible shrinking region”:

 I could cue the advertorial here about how NS/Atlantic Canada is sooooo much better than BC, Ontario, Quebec, etc; but's let's get real. It is a great, lovely, unique place. And so is almost everywhere else in Canada. My parents originally chose to live in Atlantic Canada, so they get all the credit for being foresighted (although they now live on a striking coast in BC…see above). The region proved to be a wonderful place to grow up. Sumantra Ghoshal captured, in this YouTube clip (http://youtu.be/UUddgE8rI0E) "The Smell of the Place", the "why" for why I choose to live here. I choose to believe we are Fontainebleau in Spring, not Kolkata in Summer. Notwithstanding the consistent voices telling us the latter. It may be accurate – and also true – to say that fundamentally I live here because I am stubborn. One of the many virtues of being born in Ireland is I possess certain traits (let’s call them “powers”). Mass consumption of Cheese & Onion crisps is one of these, but stubbornness is chief among them.

My specific ideas for stopping the shrink include:

Getting over ourselves. Both in general, and specifically. Confederation was a long, long time ago by anybody’s standards. I know they say the Irish never forgive a slight, and never forget a grudge. Only being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day has some merit to it in this regard. We can live like the world does things to us, or we can choose to embrace experimentation, innovation and living life way outside our former comfort zones in an effort to get to a better place.

Admit we are reflexively xenophobic, then do something about it. Halifax, Saint John, Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown & St. John's (and all the places who are now insulted I didn't name you as a 'city') in Atlantic Canada should all have enough critical mass of immigrants from somewhere in the world to have a couple of "blank-towns" within 5 years. And before you see this as a path toward ghetto-ization...when was the last time every-major-city-in-the-world-that-has-some-culture was anything less than proud of its "blank-town" areas?

Expect less, and invest more. It’s time to bargain hard with ourselves. We need to decide whether: (a) the historical levels and division of various government services, jobs and other associated ‘plums’ are actually weighing us down (spoiler alert: they are); or, (b) we’d like to keep everything as-is and one day in the not-too-distant future give upper Canada the satisfaction of being right about us. After we choose (a), we need to open our wallets and start backing those free-thinking dreamers and people who-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer.

Go back to the future. Our trading markets were north-south before Confederation, and from all sorts of perspectives it makes sense to stop focusing so much on what we might have in common with BC, and a lot more on what we have in common with New England (hint – New England = eHarmony match; BC = Tinder).

Go back to school. We have the highest concentration of ocean-related PhDs in the world. We have more universities than the Leafs have had head coaches in the past few years. But our public school system needs to be re-imagined from the bottom up before we can ultimately harness these assets. Hub schools, multi-disciplinary learning, programming…and re-training teachers who just don’t cut it into another line of work for which they are more suited.

My current frustrations are:

People who don’t know how to park;

 The high correlation between motivation and fear (e.g. in voting, celebrating other people's success, bring proud of our neighbours, change, innovation, creativity, etc). It’s as corrosive a force as exists on societal progress;

People doing the same thing, and expecting a different result.

Living in a judgement-addicted time when we ask for change, and then throw the proverbial book at anyone who attempts to give it to us.

I wish:

Voting was mandatory: failure to do so came with a healthy fine;

The phrase "come-from-away" was classed as an epithet and so un-PC that people became embarrassed to use it;

That becoming deputized to issue sarcastic parking tickets were easier for the average citizen;

 That we would reverse-engineer the above-mentioned correlation between motivation and fear and apply it to this whole-shrinkage situation;

We could drop an honesty-bomb in the dead of night across the region that allowed us to wake up and realize we're a little-too-addicted to out-sourcing our problem solving to people we then criticize when they don't live up to the-ideal-we-didn't-know-we-had; but-now-upon-reflection-realize-we-do, and have all of a sudden got some serious religion about.

Want to weigh in? Leave a comment here or connect with me via Twitter @somethingwitty.