Bittersweet time

Principal Gord McCabe, during his opening remarks at Fort Frances High School’s graduation ceremony last Thursday evening, acknowledged the “over 190 lives . . . over 190 different roads taken to get here . . . over 190 sets of dreams.”
But while Thursday’s ceremony certainly was a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of ’05, as well as look forward to their future goals and challenges, it also was a bittersweet evening when one wonders how many of those “over 190 lives” will end up calling Rainy River District home down the road.
The sobering reality is that many will not. And the reason is painfully obvious: the lack of jobs to come home to after completing their post-secondary education.
The forest industry is in crisis. The agriculture industry is slowing drying up. Public service jobs are being lost as governments downsize or centralize positions out of the district. Doctors are leaving, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to recruit new ones.
Tourism appears on the decline, and local businesses are arguing they can’t survive given their taxes and, now, significantly higher sewer and water rates in the works. Then there’s residents themselves facing skyrocketing taxes, user fees, and utility costs with each passing year.
Sure, it’s not all doom and gloom. Entrepreneurs have set up successful businesses here. As well, a new partnership was announced earlier this month that will allow the local campus of Confederation College to offer a four-year nursing program.
What’s sorely needed, though, is a more concerted effort to attract industry to the area. The resultant high-paying, skilled jobs, along with a broader tax base, may not solve all our problems, but they would be a key catalyst to reviving our flagging economy—and keeping our children at home.