Editorial – History on way to repeat

Jeff Burgar

A sharp fellow said years ago, “If you want to get people to do things, first of all, you need a project.”

Those weren’t a former MLA’s exact words from years ago, but summed up what Dennis Barton was saying. Don’t form a club, a group, a committee, a gang of people who want to do good. Not until you know what you want to happen.

Building a better community? Nice words. But how will you do it? Have lots of meetings and list what people think are needs? Have many arguments and then vote?

Like, we need a new store. Or a bigger swimming pool. Or a splash park. So let’s all put the ideas on a ballot, and see what people want the most. Then let’s work on that.

You can already figure what will happen. The folks who don’t like this “big idea” will drift away. Maybe even run away. What started out as 50 excited people soon becomes 25.

And then, once the “oldtimers who know everything” get into positions of authority, the whole shaky tower is well on its way to falling down. Or rather, never even getting a proper foundation laid.

Start with a project. Not a grand idea of “better education” or “cleaner environment” or some such. Something real and tangible. Recreation complexes were good ideas. Still are in some places. People interested will come out. Easy to sell the story. Not so easy to see it all the way through to a finished product. Not easy at all.

Politicians in High Prairie are talking about joining a Slave Lake group to operate something along the lines of a regional economic development group. Sounds good.

But it is indeed one of those “motherhood” issues, a “grand idea” of working together and “lots of hands lighten the load” and such.

Last week, in this newspaper, a High Prairie politician said the old Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance [LSLEA] fell apart. Actually, what happened was it was killed. Killed by mostly neglect. A pinch of animosity. A lot of outright jealousy. It’s story would make a chapter in “13 Ways To Kill A Community.”

Along with a question about an existing economic development agency. Why can’t Slave Lake Community Futures, with a yearly budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, can’t do what either LSLEA or the new regional group will suddenly do?

Does this new regional group have any thoughts? Perhaps, working hard to building the Five Pillars of a Community? Those pillars, Recreation Opportunities, Quality of Education, Business Opportunities, Quality of Health Care, and Community Safety, are big, broad, ideas. We rarely hear about them from politicians.

As Mr. Barton might ask on the proposed regional group, “So where’s the project?”

Is this all a matter of finding money first, then figuring how to spend it? If so, here’s an interesting thought: The last places the “failed alliance” spent money was on a marina, a generation plant, and a business study. The marina was for Slave Lake. A Slave Lake mill used the gen plant data. The study was opportunities on Lesser Slave Lake.

How did all that become failure?

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