A declining population

It is no secret that Summerland has gone through a rough stretch. No community with some 10,000 residents has had to absorb the loss of several hundred jobs since the start of the Great Recession as Summerland has.

It is no secret that Summerland has gone through a rough stretch. No community with some 10,000 residents has had to absorb the loss of several hundred jobs since the start of the Great Recession as Summerland has.

Local leaders have not closed their eyes to this reality. Much of the debate about whether Summerland should host a proposed prison or pursue an alternative avenue predicates on the premise that this community faces economic and demographic stagnation, if not outright decline.

Statistics released last month have confirmed this trend once again. Most troubling, Summerland’s population shrank by 2.2 per cent in 2010. No other community in British Columbia lost more people during that period than ours. This statistics should set off alarm bells for they represent a threat to the viability of this community.

They also represent a call for action and better yet, an opportunity, to incrementally but fundamentally revise the social and economic patterns.

Countless other communities across rural Canada have faced comparable circumstances, so Summerland is not alone as it contemplates its future choices. What should they look like? They should ideally draw on already existing strengths, such as natural environment, educational facilities and low crime rates.

One can imagine a future, in which Summerland hosts an educational facility geared towards emerging green industries that would exist within a larger cluster.

While this idea has existed for some time, it has remained on the drawing board. Why? Granted, initiatives of this kind take time.

But is it not high time to step up efforts? The industries and sectors that once defined this community are fading and the community along with it.

Who among those running in the November election will have the strength to admit this and the courage to change it?