Call it “The Pontiac Potential”

0
44

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

All of rural Canada – Pontiac in particular –
represents a vast industrial potential which is ignored by government policy
people and the corporate world. This potential is simple: a long list of unused buildings, factory space, warehouses, housing,

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

All of rural Canada – Pontiac in particular –
represents a vast industrial potential which is ignored by government policy
people and the corporate world. This potential is simple: a long list of unused buildings, factory space, warehouses, housing,
storage, parking & unloading facilities, energy sources (hydro especially), retail outlets, highways and transportation corridors – and, of course, people. People: workers, suppliers and consumers.
We rural people are no reservoir of uneducated, untrained and undisciplined citizens. These
negative types show up in the cities as much as the countryside. Enough with urban myths about rural people! A former federal employment manager here once told me there are more PhDs per population in the Pontiac than in Toronto or Montreal.
Rural people have realistic attitudes and expectations – about jobs, working conditions, salaries and pensions; they have a diversity of experience, training, and problem-solving skills which urban people might only envy. They work, or have worked, as skilled miners, foresters, farm service, technocrats, government managers, creators, teachers, medical staffers – on and on. Our people could populate any of the world’s “industrial development zones” – all we need is a zone.
Our infrastructure – electricity, highways, telecommunications, training – has its pluses and negatives, but our industrially-important infrastructure has little demand placed on it, little competition for infrastructure resources.  Highway 148 may be rough in spots, but it’s undeniably flat and straight – important for transport.
Rural Canada – Pontiac in particular – has a basic population with lots of room to grow. We could accept and integrate refugees and immigrants comfortably, if we had industrial facilities here and low-cost housing, ready right now. Our schools are not crowded. Our hospital, very good.
Pontiac’s new MP, Will Amos, understands all of this. He centred his campaign on a personal promise to bring “massive infrastructure investment to the Pontiac” – public and private investment, both. He’s a man who values performance over promise, so let’s expect many of the holes in our industry-attracting infrastructure to be remedied shortly. We’ll be ready for industrial development, for new residents and their investments.
The point is that we, this rural world, are capable of providing ourselves and our country with growth potential, jobs, family life, and a satisfactory quality of life – without needing any tar sands, uranium and rare-earth deposits, or dream-like development scenarios. Pontiac is ready to go.
None of this is to replace what little industry we still have: agriculture, a little tree-cutting, hesitant tourism, many services. Foreign investors are investing modestly in our farming potentials, and this can only grow thanks to climate change and world population pressures. But we have to look further, and as has been the mantra in this series of columns, no one is going to do all that we need for us, including our governments. 
Governments can spread the word of rural Canada’s potential. Governments can invest in infrastructure, as Mr Amos insists he will. But we have to also make certain our governments do not do the opposite: shut us down with inappropriate measures, cuts, and trade deals.
This includes the biggest threat to our economic well-being (besides climate-driven catastrophe), free trade deals which give corporations the right to use the courts to penalize or even shut down progressive legislation and standards. Free trade deals now represent a new regime of
ultra-national constitutions which can kill growth under the guise of protecting multinationals’ profits and patents. No thanks!
Pontiac has the potential, and we are resourceful and determined. Period.