COMMUNITY: Can we rebuild our community resource and supply system in time?

A report from The Globe and Mail says Sobeys plans to close 50-60 of its underperforming stores. (PETER PARSONS / File)

Originally published in January 2015

The big boys have been buying, closing and diminishing businesses in my home area, Charlotte County, New Brunswick, for many years now. Local dairies, fish processing, aquaculture operations, local poultry producers, local farmers and the list goes on. At the same time they have changed the landscape by building malls and controlling the inward and outward flow of goods, services, and most importantly the money that used to circulate within the community. Once established, these large corporation and their franchises forced the closure of a multitude of rural and urban businesses.

But now, times are getting tough and they are, as the article below indicates and recent announcements about Target and others show, dumping their unprofitable operations with little or no thought to the loss of jobs, revenues to the municipality and most importantly the life needs of the population. Large corporations simply do not care. It is totally “bottom line”. And when this happens other problems arise. Expect family dislocation, more drug and alcohol use, more crime, and more internal conflicts as individuals work to protect their views and opinions.

All and all it is really hard to fire up a dead and dying community to focus on rebuilding their lives themselves. Seems we have been trained to go hat-in-hand to some “higher authority”. Indeed often regulatory hurdles get in the way of allowing folks to get going. At the very least, these licenses, reviews, bureaucratic visits and other impediments often drive the more nervous entrepreneurs away rather than encourage them. And in any event, why should you have to get permission. There may be common sense health regulations and perhaps zoning restrictions to adhere to. But you as a citizen should not have to demean yourself to others. You should be able to “make it or break it” with any development. And an open democracy allows you to move forward without interference. A quick study of Scandinavian countries provides the model really.

So what will our communities do. Jobs are shutting down in the oil patch and folks are moving back home where jobs are also shutting down. So what is the answer?

It’s tough to have been around long enough to have seen the way things were. Local farmers supplying most of the community needs, local butchers, grocers and dairies caring for the distribution and supply. Strange things like home delivery, corner stores, local meat and seafood stores, firewood suppliers, lumber mills and so on, all the elements of a real greater community.

Well there are some folks out there who seem to have seen this coming. The have previously been given a diminished and quaint position at the weekly farmers market, back of truck selling, thrift stores, etc, while town fathers have been more concerned about the big players it seems. But the big players haven’t really been interested. They came to town to gain control and profit by it and many of the folks in power locally bought right in. “More taxes” they said. “More jobs” they said. But the reality, if you do the math, is that the loss of local businesses and social capital was often more than the gains. And now the big companies are running for cover, leaving devastation behind.

So it’ s time to redevelop our communities by establishing strong, reactive, creative and local “community corporations” that can help their neighbours with the intricate details of establishing and running a business. A group where local mentors, folks who have been there help provide the answers to questions about business, farming, retail, marketing and more and who participate directly in the development of YOUR enterprise.

That’s how I see it today.

Art MacKay



Sobeys to close about 50 stores across Canada

Published June 26, 2014 – 9:07am
Last Updated June 26, 2014 – 10:50am

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