I have been thinking about this letter for a month now. But have chosen not to write it as the time wasn't right. I think the time has come...
My Fellow Atikokanites:
This is a letter that I first thought of writing a few weeks ago but decided that I would wait and see what happens. However, after attending yesterday’s meeting with Ministers Duncan and Bartilucci I have decided that there are some things that need to be said.
For over a month now we have seen signs all over town stating “We love Atikokan and we’re going to fight for it”. I am starting to wonder when the fighting FOR anything is going to start. All I have seen thus far, apart from some generalized comments about potential new industry, is fighting against the AGS closure. Surely there is more about Atikokan than the station. Surely we can fight for this town in other ways. I think that we need to keep the station open in the short term (2010 maybe) to allow time to build an economic base but I also know that unless Atikokanites find a way to start fighting for their town it doesn’t matter how much time we are given – we still won’t move forward.
On Wednesday the phrase “failure to plan is planning to fail” was thrown at Minister Duncan as an accusation. I agree, in the time since he made his guarantee about no net loss of jobs he has failed to start making that happen. But the same goes for us here in town. In Atikokan we have put all our eggs in the basket labelled “Stop the Closure” and spent little visible energy working on finding new investment. We have failed ourselves.
But back to the fight. If we really want to fight for Atikokan I have a couple of suggestions. One is that we strike all references and predictions about the death of the town from our vocabulary. They are logical predictions but they are also deadly. If we keep talking like that we might as well pack up now. Who will invest in a town that has so little pride and trust in itself that they openly predict their demise? Second is start selling the town, even if only to each other at first. In my time here I have noticed that Atikokan does a poor job of seeing itself in a positive light. Again, why would you invest in a town when the local population seems surprised anyone would dream of doing so? Finally, I encourage each and every resident of this town to make a commitment to shopping at local merchants as much as possible, even if it may cost a few cents more. Fighting for this town means supporting the businesses that are here. These are things we can all do, even as we hound our leaders (at all levels of government) to do their part to help rebuild our economic base.
I believe that Atikokanites love their town. Right now we are angry and hurting and that is alright. But if we are going to truly fight for this town we need to move through the anger and into doing something beyond hitting back.