I’m always surprised when people are surprised by change. Even more when they try to resist it or prevent it. Change is inevitable; always has been and always will be.
We no longer live in caves, or have to hunt and gather our food. We no longer use whale oil to light our homes or rely on horses to travel. Human ingenuity has always created advancements in the way we live, work, and play.
Sometimes change occurs over millennia, sometimes at light speed. Today, technology is advancing so fast our pocket books can’t keep up.
Whole civilizations have also come and gone, as have communities. A visit to Barkerville or Quesnel Forks or any of the “heritage” properties that didn’t survive a fundamental change in the dynamics of their economy or the advancement of technology should be a stark reminder that the phrase “evolve or die” has real meaning at the community level.
Any drive up and down Highway 97 should also remind us that communities come and go. The highway is littered with the names of historic settlements with interesting but terminated stories: Alexandria, Cinema, Strathnaver, etc.
Quesnel is now in a time of rapid transition; change is not an option, it’s steamrolling over us. The only question facing our community is whether we will embrace change and manage our way through this challenging time or merely succumb to it; whether we thrive by evolving or we become yet another community that is merely a shell of its past.
Both the previous and current Councils have chosen to be real about the challenges confronting us — the mountain pine beetle epidemic, back to back unprecedented wildfire seasons, and the loss of 200 permanent jobs in the forest industry this summer alone make a pretty compelling case that rapid change in our traditional economy is upon us.
Council’s reconciliation with First Nations; rebranding of the community; community marketing strategy; strategic investments in amenities, trails, parks and playgrounds; housing and waterfront development strategies; push for the North-South Interconnector; Future of Forestry Think Tank process and Food Innovation Hub; and our new proposed Official Community Plan all reflect Council’s belief that we can proactively manage our way through this transition and remain a thriving and sustainable community.
In fact, Council believes we can actively evolve Quesnel into an interesting, fun, and vibrant community with a more diversified economy and a larger population and tax base than during the hey day of our forest economy.
However, we also acknowledge that some members of our community are resistant to change and that, sometimes, we don’t always communicate sufficiently the full context for the discreet, strategic decisions we’re making (like the strategic move of the Gold Pan, a marketing tool from the late 1980s associated with the City’s old brand).
During this year’s strategic planning session, Council will be digging even deeper into our transition strategy, we don’t have an option. But, as part of our planning discussions we’ll also be exploring ways to better communicate our overall vision and strategies so that the individual decisions we make have more context for the residents and ratepayers we were elected to represent.
It’s my sincere hope that you’ll engage fully in this process of change, take the time to sign up for our updates and notices, and inform yourself of the processes and plans we’re implementing to ensure our community’s resiliency. Actively engaged and informed citizens are essential to the success of our endeavours.
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