Benns’ Belief: Past and future city

By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

This is a story about the past, circa 1970-80. It’s about a little town with a river running through it (and a sprawling rural county) that seemed far away from the vast smudge of lights of Toronto.

The world was smaller then. Both in real terms (3.7 billion people in 1970 versus 7.9 billion today) but also because things just didn’t happen as fast. Travelling to Toronto from the little town and rural areas wasn’t something that happened as often back then, or as easily, as it does today, at least for most people.

Now, our cars are faster and better. Our access to information is instant. Our desire to do more and see more is piqued. We are less content to be still.

Continental supply chains and transportation hubs link us and bind us more tightly than ever. Life is quicker, while distances have somehow shrunk.

The big city has also swollen now, its edges bursting into fields and forests. The multiculturalism the little town and rural areas had never much experienced before is changing. It is inching northward, one family, one dream at a time. Perhaps their exit from the big city is a reaction to faster, bigger, “better.” Perhaps better just means something different now.  

This is us, of course, and our relationship to Toronto’s sprawl. Now is the moment in time where we recognize that change is upon us and that it is irresistible. How we respond to that change should be one of the defining moments of our municipality and its people.

In our latest issue, you’ll read about entrepreneur Matt Geraghty who says we “need to stop saying that Lindsay and Kawartha Lakes is just a retirement community.”

He adds, “We are seeing more people move up from Durham Region and Toronto. It is an exciting, growing, wonderful community that we have here.”

Indeed. And as we welcome people from a wider variety of backgrounds than ever before, it’s incumbent upon us to start thinking more about diversity — in our politics, in our business landscape and in our cultural offerings. How will we be more open to the richness of experience that immigrants and second- and third-generation Canadians bring from their varied backgrounds?

Council should not be the domain of only retired middle class white men (two female councillors notwithstanding), which is not to suggest these men are not serving their community, of course. Similarly, how can we ensure federal and provincial nomination races are more transparent and inclusive?

If we build our institutions better, including tweaking our rules to be more welcoming, we will benefit greatly from the array of experiences that diverse perspectives bring, as we discuss in our lead story this month.

So, yes, this is a story about the past — but inevitably it’s a story about our future and the possibilities before us.

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