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Ashton believes sister city partnerships could offer potential benefits for Pictou County

CAPE BRETON – John Ashton believes Pictou County’s municipalities could benefit by adding some siblings.
Ashton recently returned from a Partner City Workshop at Cape Breton University where he learned about the benefits that Cape Breton Municipality has been seeing with its sister city relationship with Walbrzych, Poland.
Ashton had been invited to the workshop by Prof. Tom Urbaniak of Cape Breton University and said he saw it as a great way to get information for how Pictou County could benefit from a similar arrangement.
“Pictou County may have an opportunity to collaborate on common issues with a partner county or region somewhere else in the world,” he said.
Partner Cities or twin town/counties are a form of legal agreements between towns, cities, counties, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, states, and even countries in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties, he explained. 
The object of the workshop was to identify concrete next steps and beneficial opportunities to build on the partnership agreement with the city of Walbrzych, Poland and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The process to partner with the Central European city began two years ago when a group of the Polish citizens discussed the idea. Word spread, meetings were organized and eventually the CBRM came on board.   
Ashton said the workshop was attended by about 100 people with a diverse cross section of academics, community leaders, business and tourism officials, fishers, former steel and coal miners, teachers, administrators and local and international students. The room was divided into 11 tables each containing six to eight of the attendees. 
Ashton said everyone was open at the workshop and it was interesting to hear members of the delegation from Poland speak. He said the similarities between the two communities were unbelievable including everything from trying to stop outmigration to dealing with a declining economy. Through the partnership they’re able to share about what’s helped for each community in dealing with those trends.
“Both partner regions have gone through post-industrial economies where coal mining was one of the main employers in the region,” he said. “Pictou County has experienced very similar challenges in the past and a partnership like this this may be an opportunity to communicate, exchange ideas and benefit from another county or region with similar economic, cultural and environmental experiences. Somewhere in this world there is an area with Pictou County’s comparable population, challenges and solutions. Exploring partnership concept internationally may help in the long-term sustainability of Pictou County.”
Ashton, who runs a graphic design business and is a local historian, said he would be happy to discuss his experiences at the Partner City Workshop at Cape Breton University with municipalities here in Pictou County.
“This process of partnering with another town or community could be a way of developing ideas that would strengthen the area,” he said. 
 

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