Stay positive

There certainly are plenty of things to grumble about out there.
The forest industry—the main economic engine in Northwestern Ontario—is in crisis, with paper mills closing outright or curtailing production. Many communities in the region are grappling with a doctor shortage. At the same time, farmers still are recovering from the mad cow crisis while a U.S. proposal to require everyone entering that country to have a passport by Jan. 1, 2008 threatens to deliver a death knell to a tourism industry already on thin ice.
Yet a solid majority of respondents to the Times’ web poll over the past week said they were feeling either “slightly optimistic” heading into 2006 (31.8 percent) or “very optimistic” (28.4 percent).
And, in fact, there are positive signs this week that give reason for optimism.
Here in Fort Frances, the local Abitibi-Consolidated mill is pursuing a hog fuel boiler to help reduce its ballooning hydro costs—certainly one of the major factors underlying the forest industry crisis. The town, for its part, is moving quickly to accommodate the mill’s needs (from re-zoning property and amending the official plan to closing portions of two streets) in order to get the boiler.
The Communication, Energy and Papermakers Union of Canada, meanwhile, is staging rallies across the country this coming Monday, including one in Dryden, to make the forestry crisis an election issue prior to the Jan. 23 vote.
In the meantime, plans for a new library, museum renovations, and, most recently, a proposed trail network show the town is continuing its efforts to make Fort Frances an attractive place to raise a family.
Out in the west end of the district, the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture completed its strategic plan this past fall—and already is implementing some of its suggestions.
For one, an online discussion forum, or message board, has been developed to help local farmers share information and ideas. As well, the RRFA is seeking funding to send four people to a “cutting-edge” conference in London, Ont. next month as a way to find niche markets.
In short, the district farming community is taking the initiative to meet the challenges it’s been dealt, rather than sitting back and whining about them.
Walking around wearing rose-coloured glasses sure won’t solve the many problems our communities face in the weeks and months ahead. But being optimism about the future, willing to go that extra mile, is what paves the way for better days down the road.
We must never lose that—no matter how gloomy things may seem.

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