Special Treatment

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lumber-piles
Piles of lumber near the town mill (summer 2007)

There are some changes underway in my town. You probably have similar changes going on in yours — jobs being lost or changed, wages being frozen, people moving away to find work, and/or people feeling more anxious about the future. In some ways, my town has been affected more than others, but then again, I suppose some places have it worse. When I moved here about 3 years ago, there were 2 lumber mills, one of which touted to have the greatest production capacity of a mill of that type in North America. That one closed a little over a year ago. The other one closed down about 6 weeks ago, and no one can say when it will open again, although people hope it’s not permanent. My job is on the line, too, as my employer is downsizing considerably due to national revenue shrinking.
So I was going to write a strongly-worded letter. Yup, I’m Canadian through and through, and that’s what we do — at least that’s what I like to do! It beats complaining incessantly without doing anything. So I’ve been cooking one up in my head for about a week or so, since the idea hatched. It goes something like this:

Dear Mr. Member of Parliament,
High Level is only 190 km by road (154 km by air) from the Northwest Territories, and I think that we should have the same protection that the NWT has in some areas, so that essential services cannot be removed. We are so close and yet so far from having these privileges and I think we deserve them. In many ways, we are more like the NWT than Alberta; our produce in the grocery store is pathetic, and often certain items are not available. The broccoli is bendy more often than not, and the onions are moldy. We pay more for vehicles at the dealerships, due to transportation costs. Many things are hard to get, and although we do have hardware stores, we often have to special order items to get what we need. Most items have to be shipped 800 km from Edmonton. We are only served by one scheduled airline. Our hospital is small and only handles minor emergencies and surgeries; everyone else is shipped out on medevacs. I think you get the picture.
Is there any way to make special allowances — or introduce a bill — that gives remote Canadian communities some special treatment when it comes to services and programs?
I am tired of people in big cities who live across the country deciding things about rural and small-town Canada without having ever been there. The small towns always seem to get the shaft of things!

Okay, so letter written, right? Wrong. It occurred to me to think this fully through – what if they actually did give special allowances for small towns… do I want to live in a Canada where there is special treatment for everything? Not really! When I do see special treatment, it’s frustrating! I want to live in a Canada where people are open minded, and don’t make decisions for others without consulting them and getting to know what their needs really are. I want to live in a Canada where opportunity abounds, and if things are tough, people don’t complain, but get resourceful! They don’t demand a buy out and whine for things to go back to how they were. We can work together to diversify and change our economy, instead of competing for jobs and believing in a lack of opportunity. There’s no lack of opportunity, and any challenges we face just help us learn to think outside the box, redefine ourselves and get more reasonable about our standard of living. It’s not going to go back to being the way it was – it can’t, and come to think of it, nothing ever can. Stop pining for the past – you can never go back there!– and see the potential in the present! We have the opportunity here and now to define what will happen and how the future will unfold.

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