By Ron Giofu
The tenth annual Warden’s Luncheon was held recently with collaboration being a major focus.
Warden Tom Bain addressed the crowd at the Ciociaro Club with the event being presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Bain, also the mayor of Lakeshore, noted that he was moved after hearing a presentation at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference.
“The presenter was Doug Griffiths, a former elected official at the municipal and provincial levels in Alberta, who now specializes in providing strategic community development advice to governments, not-for-profit organizations and even private sector companies. The name of his presentation was ‘Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community.’”
Bain said that Griffiths “provided inspiration” on how communities can work both independently and together to build stronger, more resilient communities.
“We cannot, or should not, depend solely upon senior levels of government to make our community successful,” said Bain. “Governments will change, priorities will change, philosophies will change and programs and funding will change. What remains constant? What we have to offer locally remains constant — our people, our assets and our resources.”
The warden said that the people of Essex County continually show the ability to deliver “world class solutions” to opportunities or adversity that the region has faced.
“It remains our collective responsibility, working collaboratively, and even on occasion in competition with each other, to make Essex County a pre-eminent destination to live, learn, work, play, invest and visit,” said Bain. “Ideas must continue to be exchanged and nurtured for norms to be poked at and success achieved.”
Essex County will spend $40 million this year to expand and/or maintain the county’s road network, Bain stated. The county is also contributing towards the proposed new mega-hospital project and is working on the SWIFT project, the latter being one to bring fibreoptic Internet service to the region. The county is also committed to helping the most vulnerable in each of the seven communities, providing resources to ensure Essex-Windsor EMS can meet their needs, and supporting physician recruitment.
Bain also highlighted “strategic investments” that either have or will be made to “improve the lives of residents.” He picked out at least one for every county municipality with the warden mentioning Amherstburg’s purchase of both the Duffy’s and Belle Vue properties. Bain said the “key strategic acquisitions of the Belle Vue House and the former Duffy’s Tavern will allow Amherstburg to continue to showcase and commemorate its rich history and sense of place.”
“The role of government is to develop the foundations for communities to build upon. However, we need to be keenly aware that constructing these foundations is not accomplished in a sprint,” the warden continued. “Some will say it is a marathon. I tend to liken it to a relay race in which the baton is constantly passed along.”
Teamwork is “essential” to the prosperity of every community, Bain stated.
“This may sound silly, but to preserve the status quo, that is keeping what we cherish as a community, we must be prepared to allow and embrace change,” said Bain. “Without change, our status quo is at risk. We must be truthful to ourselves by ‘connecting the dots,’ by trying to understand and appreciate how decisions and actions of today will affect the aspirations of tomorrow.”
Retaining youth is important, he believed, but said today’s young people are convinced by deeds, and not words.
“If our community advertises it is prepared to train, encourage, mentor and connect, we best be
prepared to deliver. Actions will speak far louder than words,” said Bain. “As change permeates our community, one of the most important changes we can collectively make is one of attitude. New ideas, new approaches and new paradigms are likely to make us uncomfortable. We will need to welcome and support the new found creativity and innovation our youth are sure to bring.”
Furthering his theme of collaboration, Bain said that “borders shouldn’t be used to keep us apart” and that “we live in a regional economy with many sub-components.” He noted Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI) is working to highlight the area and its attractions and the the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) also has several projects on the go for 2017, including the official opening of the Cypher Systems Greenway that connects Essex and Amherstburg.
Bain did see “storm clouds” on the horizon, due to positions taken by U.S. President Donald Trump that include a border tax on imports into the U.S., an impending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an “America First” policy, particularly with respect to the auto industry and “a general thickening of the Canada/U.S. border, slowing the flow of goods and creating confusion for local residents working in the U.S.”
“Changes to our trading relationship with the U.S. are no doubt coming, with the nature, extent and timing yet to be determined,” said Bain. “Both the Canadian and Ontario governments continue to work closely with their U.S. counterparts to demonstrate the substantial mutual benefits and value that accrue from Canada/U.S. trade. The impact upon our local economy remains to be seen.”
Windsor-Essex has “sturdy foundations” and said the area’s business community is innovative, adaptive and creative.
“If I know anything about Essex County and its residents, it is that what at first may appear to be a problem will quickly be converted into a new opportunity,” said Bain. “Through teamwork, embracing our youth, and welcoming fresh, new ideas, I have every confidence that Essex County determination, attitude and passion will turn challenges into silver linings, and not allow silver linings to become problems. The biggest misstep we can make is to allow possibility and potential to slip through our grasp.”