Lisa Gervais: Young people the solution, not the problem
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 22, 2017|
Today’s front page story – on the challenges preventing young people from staying in the county – is
hardly new. We have been experiencing an exodus of youth for as long as there has been transportation
more advanced than a horse and buggy. So has most of rural and regional Ontario.
The majority of high school students leave for college or university. They come back summers but many
are lost forever to larger cities. When we’re really lucky, a few come back in their 20s to 50s to
work or start businesses. For entrepreneurs, the life is hard. There are long hours, for years, until a profit is turned. It takes a special breed.
One young professional who recently left our area for Peterborough told us it’s more about why young people don’t come back than about why they leave.
He talks about the “sacrifices” that young professionals have to make to come home. They include a shortage of places to live, high rents and housing prices that are simply beyond them. He said they also face salary caps. They are told by employers they would love to pay them more but simply cannot. They are expected to work a lot of hours and it impacts on lifestyles.
He gave a thumbs up to the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce which offers networking at monthly breakfast meetings. There was also kudos for the Young Professionals Network (YPN) that recently formed in our area.
However, this young professional said there are many gaps that need to be addressed.
And so the story goes … we remain a place to get out of, or a stepping stone to somewhere else.
There has been much gnashing of teeth over this. Parents in particular keep asking “why?” So do our politicians.
We won’t elaborate on the Internet issue. Amanda Robinson does a good job of that in the story. We all know it isn’t good enough. It’s great when you want to disconnect for a weekend. It’s horrendous if you live and work here.
Another gap is infrastructure for youth. Talk to young people and they lament the dearth of a night life. We know the county isn’t ready for a night club but it would be nice to have the option of going somewhere in Haliburton Village after about 8 p.m. This county is also crying out for a municipal recreational centre with a swimming pool. And what about a movie theatre? An out-of-town investor – a young professional - has tried to breathe life into the former Beaver Theatre but is facing no end of red tape.
So, the fact Dysart’s economic development committee is having another stab at this issue is a good thing. So is the participation in the First Impressions Community Exchange program (FICE). FICE provides a structured opportunity for communities to learn about the first impressions they convey to visitors through surprise visits and constructive feedback.
We need to know what kind of impression we make to potential newcomers, too, not just our own potential comebacks.
We don’t have all the answers. But we have an idea. Attend a council meeting in this county and you won’t find any young professionals sitting around the table. That’s a shame. If anyone can tackle this ongoing problem, it’s young people. We would encourage youth to toss their hats in the ring in the fall of 2018. They might just be able to talk the older councillors into some new solutions. We also need serious economic development plans based on good research following proven models and accept this might mean investing money and paying higher taxes.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.