More than 140 people gathered for a conversation about the future of the Town of Antigonish.
The first Engage Antigonish session took place Jan. 31 at St. Ninian Place.
“We are overwhelmed with the support,” Mayor Laurie Boucher said in her closing remarks.
The initiative is one started by the Town of Antigonish, in collaboration with Engage Nova Scotia, which is facilitating the process.
The mandate for Engage Nova Scotia is to provide opportunities that allow Nova Scotians to be more inclusive, embracing of change and to tackle the province’s challenges, according to the organization’s website.
“It is about the vision for your community,” Engage Nova Scotia CEO Danny Graham said in his introductory remarks.
After participants answered a variety of demographic questions in a digital survey, community members were asked to step to the podium to provide priorities for the town moving forward.
Next, round table discussions commenced regarding those 14 topics, which included everything from youth retention and mental health to business development and beautification.
Inclusivity, opportunities for seniors and the relationship between the town, Municipality of the County of Antigonish and St. F.X. were also discussion topics.
After expressing their thoughts about the subject they deemed to be most important, participants were asked to move to another table.
When the whole group came back together, facilitators provided a thumbnail sketch of the discussions at each table.
For example, when it came to business attraction, the idea of taking a holistic approach was a top priority, while focussing on supporting local entrepreneurs.
When it comes to bringing and keeping businesses, Olga Gladkikh said contributors asked whether “we should want to get bigger, bigger and bigger, or sustain and grow [what we have].”
There was feedback regarding the need to promote – and facilitate – using ‘more feet and pedal power’ in the community.
One common theme, as facilitators provided their summaries, was the realization there are ‘many wonderful things,’ along with the need to put a focus on ‘what we already have’ and ‘how we can make it better.’
Graham described the first community conversation as a “night of exploration.”
As for the next gathering, which will take place in late March of early April, he noted, it will focus on convergence – determining what priorities are “most important and most doable.”
When she reflected on starting the community consultation process, in her closing remarks, Boucher described it as a “leap of faith.”
“I want to thank everyone so much for coming,” she said, praising the “passion and love” residents have for their community.
Boucher also touched on the importance of partnerships – not only with other municipalities and levels of government, but also with residents.
“Gone are the days of doing things in silos,” she noted.
Boucher described the session as “the beginning of a great partnership with you [community members],” while encouraging them to continue to participate in the process of creating the talked about citizen-led strategic plan for 2018 and beyond, for the Town of Antigonish.
To stay up to date on the Engage Antigonish initiative, visit engagenovascotia.ca/antigonish.
For more information, go to townofantigonish.ca and follow the municipality on Facebook and Twitter (@anitgonishtown), and also join the conversation at hashtag #engageantigonish