Pontiac’s three bum legs

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Pontiac’s economy has three legs: farming, forestry, and tourism.  That’s what politicians on all levels and local public servants tell us; what they don’t add is that, compared to, say, Terry Fox, Pontiac is running on not one but three artificial legs. 
No question about forestry: our once-

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Pontiac’s economy has three legs: farming, forestry, and tourism.  That’s what politicians on all levels and local public servants tell us; what they don’t add is that, compared to, say, Terry Fox, Pontiac is running on not one but three artificial legs. 
No question about forestry: our once-
thriving mills (paper, lumber, shingles, chips, drying/planning, etc) are closed. Who would have guessed this, thirty years ago when Pontiac hardwood forests seemed the envy of the world? 
Agriculture, too. The number of farms has been contracting, no matter the reason,
proving that there’s not a good living to be had from most of the  options open in farming. Dairy farms are the big
exception, thanks to
supply management mechanisms which match the product produced to the amount consumed, avoiding gluts. Beef seems sturdy today; it wasn’t a few years ago, and likely not in the future – beef producers have boom-and-bust, not supply-management. This doesn’t make for economic sturdiness! Cash-cropping and niche farming have yet to prove their profitability here, with our soils, heat units, growing season and distance from processors and markets. It seems unlikely that goats, hops, medicinal herbs or trout will
ever contribute in the
volumes needed to
sustain agricultural
communities.  Farming’s
getting fit for its
prosthesis; put it that way.
If Harper’s TPP secret trade deal is signed, our dairy farms will all need artificial legs. Can those legs race against producers from the southern USA, Australia, or New Zealand?
So that leaves tourism, including art and cultural tourism (something Montreal brags about), given
our numerous and
highly-skilled resident artists. Doesn’t tourism also merit support?  
Did it ever walk on legs in the first place? 
Tourism operators did try. There have been many entrepreneurs
who took the risks and invested in tourism in the Pontiac. Many are still here, still trying . . . but without a Niagara Falls or a Disney investor, our motels and services appear and disappear with regularity.
Pontiac’s original tourism association set up log-cabin info booths at several Pontiac entrances, local media produced magazines
and booklets, and entrepreneurs invested in improved golf facilities, restaurants, rafting and canoeing services, fishing and hunting, horse
riding, while local
government helped with a little funding – and the PPJ Trail. We still see few out-of-province license plates. More motels have been torn down than opened. Restaurants have changed hands, but not much new or novel has appeared (except
for the inspiring example of Spruceholme and
the Pontiac Conference Centre in Fort Coulonge). 
The SADC has been left with much of the heavy lifting for tourism, and it saved the day for the tourist booths when new regulations made the quaint log-cabins unsupportable.
Other legs might be retail stores and government salaries and
payments.
The government, at local levels, can’t do much to re-open lumber mills or compete with questionable (but cheap!) milk from Tennessee. Tourism is another story. Our tourist info booth (yes, one booth) is being transferred to the MRC building in Campbell’s Bay. Good, maybe.
Who will staff this,
especially on weekends and after-hours when tourists are on the road? Who will be hired to describe Pontiac’s attractions (young folks from Montreal who Google their questions)? Where will the funds come from -given the MRC’s inability to allocate funding to tourism? (Apparently there is still money for “forestry”.)
Maybe Pontiac’s three legs are not artificial.
Maybe we don’t
have legs at all.
Pontiac’s Three Missing Economic Legs
. . . how’s that for a future?