The elephant in the room

Concern over a shortage in attendance at a recent economic planning session in Hope B.C.

Having attended the recent AdvantageHOPE economic planning session, regarding engaging various sectors, for the upcoming OCP (Official Community Plan) I was surprised to enter a possible planning session with only 18 people.

This consisted of AdvantageHOPE board members and staff, a few supporters, a few members of the general public like myself and three members of council and staff.

It left myself and others with a distinct sense, that I call “the elephant in the room.” Previous meetings for the public, had an estimated 50 to 60 plus, with my own best guess, being that this one would have perhaps 30-40 because of it being planning, a subject some regard as too dry.

Most notably absent, was any official presence by the local Hope Chamber of Commerce and to the best of my knowledge, there was no one from any of the three local real-estate company’s, which of course are the foot soldiers of so many things relating to economic development.

Yet, the format was presented with no mention by the organizers at the beginning, or in closing remarks at the end, of these two major absences, nor not one attendee of any one of a few larger employers.

The only time it was mentioned, was in a passing remark by a director of AdvantageHOPE while at the table, regarding the chamber of commerce withdrawing from this process.

Otherwise, we were asked to carry on with a set group format. No questions or comments from the floor.

Nothing.

With questions about the economic climate of Hope and ensuring more abundant quality future employment in the area, I would suggest that perhaps creating more of a sense of community, like ensuring substantially more public involvement, by regularly and actively engaging the public with AdvantageHOPE needs to be seriously considered.

Introducing a few elected positions and less appointments coupled with an expanded general membership, can and will create a more community focused climate, instead of the current disconnect, that has seen good people question and be grilled for simply having the courage to want to ask questions of a group that is being funded by taxpayer dollars.

It all begins with leadership.

It does not mean having to rework most of what has been put into place, but does mean doing some honest soul searching, to ensure business protocol and direction have been adhered to.

Prospective new business or residential development tools, need to be quickly and efficiently accessible, be it on the website, social media or in print.

Being one of the first, amongst smaller British Columbia communities to have fibre optic cable, this and other many other commonly used website items, remain absent with an apparent redirect of energy, to focus on tourism at the expense of what most in business, would regard as the fundamentals of economic development, in small communities to ensure a balanced approach of time, money and energy.

Located at a key junction in the province, the District of Hope is well positioned for far more in business, than to be a seasonal summer fix for tourists and generally seasonal employment.

Long term prospects for those wishing to live and work here can enjoy far more stability, or simply ride the wild ride of the seasons, weather, and our own Canuck buck against the US dollar.

It has been stated and restated to look at expanding the business platform, with recent inroads to tourism being great for seasonal work and little else for the majority of workers.

We can develop a stable, more diverse economy that can only come with work, be it in lite industrial policy, or promoting future land development. As AdvantageHope continues to evolve, I hope it begins to heed the wishes of the people that pay the bills, the tax payer and gets on with the business of ensuring a future that is ripe with gifts and not gaffs in ensuring full public involvement and accompanying disclosure.

Failure to adhere to the cautionary leaked memo, about conflict of interest — I have to agree that yes indeed a line has been crossed, that can be dealt with, by simply doing the right thing.The thing one  would typically do, with wearing many hats and given a short lead time to respond.

We have good people both in and outside of AdvantageHOPE, with the emphasis towards tourism being a nice step, but we need substantially more to ensure solid long term job possibilities for both present and future folks choosing to reside here.

Sincerely,

Donald Stokes