Has Pictou County reached tipping point of no return?

Published on August 22, 2014

To the editor,
When we arrived in Pictou County in 2001 I was not aware how far down the road of decline the area had gone.

However, after attending many economic/community development meetings nothing changed. Perhaps the catastrophe theory applies to Pictou County, that is, systems can survive for a long time in a declining mode, however, the longer this continues the harder it becomes to rectify the situation until finally it reaches a tipping point at which time it is not possible or becomes so expensive that society abandons the situation (the young flee for opportunities elsewhere and the economic, social and physical infrastructures collapse). The available data seem to indicate this is occurring notwithstanding that Pictou County has produced or elected some very senior provincial and federal politicians.  

The forces of negative change are so strong that that those entrepreneurs large and small struggling to keep Pictou County breathing require a massive infusion of inspired and visionary leadership from our politicians, labour unions and all citizens. In the past Robert Stanfield and Frank Sobey Sr. provided such leadership. Now let us see what could have been done and still can be done.

  1. Pictou County has a proud military tradition and it would have been appropriate to have moved the Ministry of Defence to Pictou County. Decentralization of major ministries is done in other countries and just requires determination by powerful regional leaders. Such a major move would have propelled Pictou County’s population well over a 100,000 to the point where it would have become a major regional node providing higher level health, educational, shopping, housing and entertainment services. This would have made it easier to recruit entrepreneurs. Recall Halifax got its economic kick-start with the movement of thousands of federal civil servants to HRM. There were some powerful regional ministers who expedited this.
  2. If Trenton Car Works was a productive firm as many claim then the labour unions could have purchased Green Brier and moved that firm to Pictou County. Similarly the pulp mill could have been purchased and renovated to eliminate the pollution problems and paid for by producing higher value products.
  3. All the development agencies: Nova Scotia Business Inc., Noble, ACOA, former PRDC and now REN should be consolidated and the freed resources used to establish two critical units. The first unit empowered to seek firms to come to Pictou County and the second to assist existing firms to grow and see potential problems as they arise. For example the Michelin problem could have been foreseen and perhaps resolved. That is, be proactive not reactive.
  4. Contact all the bright and energetic Pictou County residents who have left and work with them to create the conditions that would enable them to return and set up enterprises in which they specialize – thereby also overcoming our dependency culture.
  5. The Wellness Centre could have had a 50-metre pool to attract swimming meets and individuals who need such facilities to train.
  6. Stop the endless political photo-ops and happy talk that come with small bonbons but no real action. In many countries governments have created jobs through crown corporations, direct investment, far reaching visionary policies and by other means with the support of unions and the business community.

Gerald Romsa