Year End Wrap Up 2014 …
I believe it is fair to say the year 2014 was a year of transition and growth across our region and our country. With the recent changes in local government representation being the most obvious example, some other important shifts in our culture also took place, but may not be as obvious. From my vantage point, the big local story in 2014 was the great awakening of the electorate and their increased participation in not just elections, referendums etc… but community participation in general. The turnout at local markets, community events and election debates- along with other “hands on” activities was noticeably greater in 2014. The advancement of recently formed community groups like “West Kootenay Women in Business", the "Glenmerry Residents Association" and the newly created in 2014 “Downtown Business Group” in Trail, are all examples of this shift. The common thread which is woven through the increased community participation and the groups mentioned has been the driving force behind them; they are all citizen led. This level of citizen engagement is key to their ongoing success and local government should be supporting these initiatives across our region. While the residents of Greater Trail have always been known for their steadfast volunteerism, we have also just come through a period where our core group of volunteers has experienced somewhat of a renewal among its ranks. The recruitment of some fresh faces has afforded our longest serving community advocates a rest and in some cases, a well-deserved and hard-earned retirement. Their service to our greater community is truly appreciated.
Along with this renewal, some other changes will likely follow. Previously successful ventures and long standing institutions may pass away. Perhaps slowly, or in some cases they may just cease to exist as their supporters seek new ways of serving their community. This too can be a healthy change, as long as we view the passing away of the old as a graduation of sorts (not simply as loss) and welcome the new institutions with as much energy and enthusiasm as we had with their predecessors. One key driver in these changes is the ever increasing and proliferating advances in technology. As they occur, it brings with them social changes, across all strata of our society. Volunteerism is but one area. Changes in how we do business, how we educate ourselves and how we communicate are all results of changes in the technology we use to navigate our daily lives. 2014 brought us new ideas like the website Ed-X, an online education website that offers free university level courses to anyone who has an internet connection. Ideas such as this are game changers for a society. Leveling the playing field, by allowing those of modest means access to world class education at no cost, is a giant leap forward for our culture in my view. As we celebrate these leaps forward, we must also keep in mind that once again, advances such as this one, will have unintended consequences.On a more somber and sobering note, the most significant event/tragedy of the year for all Canadians (in my view) would have to be the terrorist attack in Ottawa of October 22nd, which claimed the life of Cpl. Nathan Cirrillo, Canadian Forces. It brought home the very real fact that the now almost 14 year-old War on Terror is a fight that knows no boundaries. Not only was this heinous act unprovoked and executed in a cowardly fashion, it was carried out at a location that I, along with many other Canadians - would deem sacred, our National War Memorial. This total disregard for the normal conventions of war further highlighted the fact that the battlefield in such an asymmetrical war could very well be a parking lot in a suburb, or a busy shopping mall in downtown (any city) Canada. Although this act of terror was carried out by a lone mad man, we cannot ignore the fact that his actions were ideologically driven. We learned in the worst way possible on October 22nd, that such a battle must not only be fought differently, it must also be defended against differently than any of the other conflicts in our history as a nation. This again, has the potential to change everyday life for all of us. While the odds of any one Canadian being a victim of such an attack are a statistical anomaly in the extreme, the odds of such an event changing how we live - are much greater. One only needs to look back upon the tragic events of September 11, 2001 to see the type of cultural changes that can occur as a result. Although the two attacks are not comparable in scope, what they do have in common is that they both exposed fatal flaws in our defense mechanisms. Now we must examine these gaps and rectify them without delay.
Still, I look to our collective future with great optimism. We as Canadians are in many ways the envy of the western world and are perhaps too humble to admit it. Certainly, we have our challenges to address, but we have much more to be proud of. Canada is consistently ranked in the top five countries to live in worldwide .The Economist magazine recently conducted a study on livability and 3 of the top 10 cities in this global ranking were Canadian; Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. What does this all mean you ask? Well, I will conclude my annual diatribe with this question that answers yours.
In spite of the challenges this generation faces (as all generations before and aft - have and must), where else would you rather be?
Happy New Year!