Westward Hall, March 2, 2017 – just before 2pm – The room was beginning to fill for the 2017 Economic Forum

One of the perks of my day job with Community Futures Yellowhead East is the ability to attend events like the 2017 Economic Forum. This event put on by the Whitecourt and District Chamber of Commerce along with several sponsors. This year was my third year in a row attending, though my fourth all over as I attended the first one way back when they first started around 9 years ago. The event was much smaller and less posh back then, held in the Seniors Center in town instead of out at Westward Hall. A sign of how much it has grown and improved over the years.

This year’s speaker was Dr. Linda Duxbury. She’s a brilliant woman who delivered a magnificent representation of the data that she works with, but I disagreed with much of it.

Not the data itself. That was no doubt impeccable and echoes much of what I have read and observed over the years.

But the problem, for me, is that data and statistics aren’t people. Statistics are a reflection, not a picture. So the characterizations and stereotypes that come out of this type of research always irks me.

Also, I don’t think population decline is a bad thing, despite the problems it presents in elder-care over the short term. So that difference in perspective has me looking at the data and solutions differently than someone who believes that the future should be a continuation of the past instead of an evolution towards a different kind of future. The population decline appears to be happening naturally as an outgrowth of education, according to Dr. Duxbury. Perhaps that’s not as big of a challenge as that appears.

Perhaps it’s even a good thing. I mean I love my children to the moon and back, but we are pushing the limits on what the earth can sustain. Isn’t that why people are studying sustainable agriculture and trying to find ways to create more with less? Isn’t that why we are dipping our toes into looking into renewable energy?  Maybe we shouldn’t be looking at ways to create more people but start looking to creating a better life for those that are here.

Another point of difference is the suggestion that children today are more eco-conscious than the generation before, but I remember learning the slogan “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” and learning about rainforests and acid rain and all sorts of other enviro-friendly concepts. We’ve been on the path towards this for a long time. So again, a difference of opinion that colours the perception of the data.

And then there’s the fact that it was big business and corporate-centric. It largely ignored that small business produces 98% of the jobs in Canada and represent 36% of the exports. (2011 figures).

In the end, I agree with Dr. Duxbury that the business world is changing and as business owners we must adapt or die.

But death is inevitable. Underneath it all, at the heart of every entrepreneur beats the heart of a Phoenix – so in the end we’ll dust ourselves off and rise from the ashes – boom and bust may just be part of the DNA of mavericks.

I’ll share thoughts on other parts of the forum over the weekend. I bought a book from the guest speaker, Todd Hirsch, so I’ll be reading and reviewing that soon. But not now. Now I have to get ready for work.

Till next time!

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