Time To Change The Channel, By Perry Robinson Mayor, Town of Sedgewick

Many communities in the Flagstaff region are over 100 years old. Just think of all the stories our communities could tell. I bet it would make great television.

The good times…the sad times…the action…the drama…communities have everything to make a hit TV show.

Ultimately (and sadly) what seems to sell with the public the most on TV these days is conflict. It can be easy to see it – even in our own communities – if we choose to find it and focus on it.

Yes. Generally we all are neighbourly and friendly with each other. And certainly we care about each other’s success and well-being. That just goes with who we are as people living in the Flagstaff region. It’s how we were raised. But we also have some problems we need to work out. Just like any other neighbourhood.

You see, our boundaries were drawn up when times were different. Maybe they were based on school districts. Maybe on how long we could walk in a day. Or how far we had to haul our grain to the nearest elevator. That made sense back then, but does it today?

We are no longer constrained by boundaries. In today’s world, people, goods and information flow freely across entire continents let alone counties. The old lines in the sand marking our territory are quickly disappearing. Yet many of us fail to see this and let it get in the way of considering how to build our future success.

Sometimes we argue about who should get a recreation centre or seniors’ home. Or who should pay for the water treatment plant. Or how more region-based fire services should work. We can oppose anything more region-based “just because”….before we take the time to think about what that might look like. This leads to uninformed choices about the future.

None of this does any good for each other. It’s interesting TV, but lacks the more soulful and deeper discussion we need to have with each other.

In a world in which our rural population is declining, we need to get out of our sandboxes and think about how to work together to reposition our economic development opportunities, and how to pool resources to meet the needs of future generations.

Perhaps its time to change the channel? Don’t get me wrong – the last 100 years have been great. We have established communities filled with pride and good people. But we need to ask ourselves: will this continue forever? The short answer is, without making some significant changes, no. Early research indicates that although our communities are generally viable today, population and economic trends will challenge viability in future. So how do we tackle this?

For one, we need to stop thinking as islands and start thinking as a region. We are stronger if we work together. We need to forget old grudges and begin a new way of collaboration. Arguing over our slice of territory doesn’t do anything to improve the entire territory, or what it has to offer its citizens.

Once we change our way of thinking and how we work together, then we can then focus on solutions that provide us all with great services and economic opportunities, and attract the families we need.

Only together can we make the TV show less about conflict and more about success. Good news stories may not dominate TV these days, but it would be TV worth watching.