Our latest column, as it appears in the Casket newspaper, with the original submitted title. Note to self: They have been very accommodating with your lengthy columns, but if there’s physically not room to fit your lengthy title, there just isn’t. Keep that in mind.

 

And so the people of Nova Scotia have spoken, and we got ourselves a new premier, Mr. Stephen McNeil. At or about the same time, the people of Antigonish also spoke, and we got ourselves a new MLA, Mr. Randy Delorey. Needless to say, things are likely pretty cheery in the Liberal bunkhouse. There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as being told you’re in charge of something.

Why, I remember the night of my own glorious ascension into power in February of this year, when I grasped the reins of leadership bestowed upon me by the Chamber of Commerce. It was a night of great revelry with wine and food and camaraderie. Huzzah, what an eve!

Early the next morning, as I lounged about in my branched velvet gown basking in my presidential glory, the phone rang. It was a media type person who wanted the Chamber of Commerce’s viewpoint on a labour dispute going on at St.F.X. and the impact it was having on Antigonish business. Oh, and three or so other media types wanted to know the same thing. And, perhaps I should also appear on Information Morning on Monday. It turns out that, all of a sudden, I was an expert or something. To quote Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly.”

I guess what I’m tryin’ to say, newly elected officials, is that the honeymoon is already over. I reckon you’ve figured this out by now, but it’s time to get down to business. And my job in this business is figuring out how you are going to support our members and businesses in Antigonish and by extension, Nova Scotia.

How are we going to let people know that Nova Scotia is open for business? Our government needs to decide if they are going to be roadblocks, or if they are going to be facilitators. I mean, in the real sense, not in any rhetorical jargon sense. I mean, in the “wow, you’ve got an idea, how can we help that happen” kinda sense.

And I’m not just talking about the blockbuster way, where there’s a fantastic photo opportunity to stand next to someone shaking hands in front of reporters. I’m talking about the folks who have a dream. An I’ve-always-thought-this’d-be-great kind of dream. The folks that would love to set up something like this in Antigonish so I could live here, if only it was feasible. Is this province going to be willing to put the red tape in the storage closet? Is Nova Scotia going to be known as a help or a hinderance?

What will we be doing about economic development? For years, we had our Regional Development Authorities, who were tremendous assets in this regard. But the RDAs were dissolved to be replaced by Regional Enterprise Networks, which would apparently save us tremendous amounts of money. Well, the RDAs are gone, and all the programs, information, and people are in the wind, but I haven’t seen a REN yet. What is the plan for economic development in Antigonish from the provincial perspective?

The Chamber’s membership has reported to us with authority that their number one priority is municipal relations. It should seem obvious, as well, that relations between the province and its municipal counterparts would be optimal if the municipal units were on the same page, acting in one voice. Is our new government willing to be an assistance in this respect? Are there ways the province can aid in creating optimal municipal relations? How do we feel about funding a governance study?

These are but some of the things that spring to mind. I could continue to prattle on, but the editor gives me a hard time about blowing past the word count.

Randy, during the debate that the Chamber co-hosted with the St.F.X. Students’ Union, you stated that though you were the Liberal candidate, your loyalties ultimately lay with Antigonish not the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia. Firstly, I believe you sincere when you say this, and I thank you for saying it. Secondly, I suspect you’ll find that to be easier said than done at times over the next 4 years or so. Thirdly, and most importantly, I can assure you that I will hold you to your statement. I very much look forward to working with you in the years to come.

Mr. McNeil, while you and I will likely have little or no direct contact while you are premier of Nova Scotia, you should know that I will struggle with which combination Stephen/Steven McNeil/MacNeil is the proper way to spell your name for the entirety of your premiership. This will not change, regardless of how good or poor a premier you turn out to be. That said, I will always Google your name to make sure it is right. You are in charge of, in my occasionally humble opinion, the finest province in the Dominion. Take fine care of it while its citizens deem you worthy to do so. And don’t be surprised if you hear from me. Sometimes I get in a letter-writin’ mood.
The Antigonish Chamber of Commerce, and all Chambers, stand ready to work with you in providing a bright future. I ask that you let us provide our voice to yours.

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