From the Publisher’s Pen

I drove to Kenora last Friday and found myself with several hours to think about the issues affecting our community.
Many things have changed in the past four years. Businesses have opened; others have closed. People have moved to the district, others have moved away—and some of those even have returned home now.
The population of the district has continued to dwindle and enrolment in schools, in minor hockey, and in Girl Guides has declined. The average age of the population has continued to grow older, with more looking to get out of the workforce through retirement than those looking to get into it.
Since 9/11, the ease we once felt for crossing over to the U.S. sister communities of International Falls and Baudette has been lost forever. Similarly, the ease that many Americans felt in coming over the border to Fort Frances and Rainy River has been diminished, too.
Those changes also are reflected in other issues facing the district. Sawmills across Rainy River District have faced stiff penalties for shipping their products into the States.
And even though the federal government successfully has defended Canada’s softwood industries with every trade dispute mechanism, the U.S. now has announced an extraordinary challenge against the latest ruling by a NAFTA panel.
Meanwhile, the cattle industry that four years ago could sell a yearling steer for $800 today can fetch only $400 as a result of the one animal testing positive for mad cow disease in Alberta in May, 2003.
And no hope appears on the horizon for fully opening the U.S. border to Canadian beef again.
The district is facing these challenges, and each sector is shouldering its own burden. But across Canada, other rural communities are facing similar challenges to their economies and health.
One really hopes that an abattoir will be built in the district, which will give local beef and red-meat producers a place to have animals processed. It might even create a local demand for meat that is raised within the district.
One wonders if other examples, such as NorFab here, can be found to turn the lumber produced in the district into value-added products. What can we do to eliminate the fear of going through each nation’s borders?
Are there specific needs for recreation and health the “baby-boomer” generation will be requiring in the next five years as the number of new retirees peak?
The communities of Fort Frances, International Falls, Emo, Rainy River, and Baudette are all rural and relatively isolated, yet we live along an historic river that straddles two countries. Are there solutions to some of our common issues that can be shared and developed?
The future of this region depends upon looking at the issues facing our economic health. To do nothing is not an answer.

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