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  • Writer's pictureDouglas W. Judson

Loss of Younger Citizens Met with Sucking and Blowing

When it comes to doing more to attract and retain youth and young families, Fort Frances is paralyzed by contradictions in local civic debate and inertia in local civic action.

Just over a month ago the Fort Frances Times was lining up to voice its support for Council's decision to do absolutely nothing to remove barriers which prevent younger people from running for or holding municipal office – effectively standing in the way of younger generations having any meaningful role in municipal decision-making. (This is a reality I've already covered at length, here and here.)

But today, the Fort Frances Times' editorial is clutching its pearls because, lo and behold, the Census has told us what we already know: that our local population is aging rapidly and our municipality needs to do more to attract and retain young families to support it.

Millennials reacting to local Census data.

Call me crazy, but it's almost like – and hear me out on this – maybe these issues are connected? I suggest to you that they are two sides of the same coin.

Maybe young people don’t want to live in a community that seems uninterested in their needs and challenges. Maybe young families don’t want to stay, move to, or come back to a community that under-invests in amenities for their children. Maybe our youth read about the ongoing resistance to basic measures to benefit their demographic – things countless other small cities have done or have built – and wonder why they shouldn’t live in those places instead. Maybe younger generations don’t want to mortgage their future to find housing in a community that entertains nonsense both-sides-ism about whether our local legacy of colonization was, in fact, racist (hint: it was very racist). Maybe others flee as soon as they get the chance for the same reason.

We see this type of disconnect over and over in Fort Frances: those in power identify a problem, but ignore the solutions they don't care for. For example, just four months ago, the media reported on a study which said that young physicians would not move to communities like Fort Frances because we don’t offer enough for their families. And yet instead of making investments to address that shortcoming, we eschew opportunities to build new public recreation unless it’s funded by donors and bake sales. These are profoundly self-inflicted injuries. The Census is the proverbial writing on the wall.

The old guard of Fort Frances can’t suck and blow at the same time. Either you care about creating space for the next generation of our community members, or you don’t. And saying you care about renewal but doing nothing about it and ignoring obvious solutions doesn’t mean very much to young people looking for a place to call home and put down roots.

Finally, for the record, millennials are not teenagers or undergrads. They are between ages 25 and 40, and most of this generation is already settled at their forever home. With Gen-Z now leaving adolescence and mounting evidence that Indigenous people are the youngest and fastest growing local demographic, maybe it's time for a change in priorities.

Nominations are now open for the 2022 municipal election, and can be filed between now and August 19, 2022. Election day is October 24, 2022. Young people interested in running for municipal office are welcome to contact me if they would like to discuss their candidacy or potential candidacy.

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