Saturday, January 9, 2016

How Welcoming Can We Be and Can we Just Fix This Please?

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang.  I picked up to hear a woman's voice on the other end.  The crying baby in the background assured me this was not a telemarketer.   The woman said, Hello, is this Anna?  Yes, it is.  Hi, My name is Melissa and I'm calling from Alberta.  I hope you don't think I'm crazy, but my family and I are thinking about moving to Lunenburg.  I came across a video that you were featured in and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to answer some questions.

I assured Melissa that I did not think she was crazy.  That I have received versions of this call multiple times and I'm always happy to help.  I took a deep breath because this time my answer was going to have to be a little different than my previous answers.   I explained to Melissa that I have been at the centre of a Lunenburg controversy for some time now and told her that I will be completely honest with her.  Here's how our conversation went.

Melissa told me that her and her husband would like to buy a house and run a bed and breakfast.  I told her that while we have a booming tourist industry, the winters are really quiet.  Does one of them have another job?  Yes, her husband works from home.  Super!  That's the big check mark.  There are few jobs here.  You have to come here and make things happen.  She explained to me that they don't expect to be rich.  They want to come  for the life style.  Very reasonable expectation.  That sounds like everyone I know.  A few more things about that Bed and Breakfast.....It is permitted as a home occupation in our Land Use Bylaw, but right now in many parts of rural Nova Scotia, Home Occupations are sometimes being incorrectly seen as separate commercial occupancies.  This triggers all kinds of commercial building code and the expense will often stop the dream before it starts.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the province has shown the desire to clarify this issue and this clarification should be coming out very soon.  We are all waiting with baited breath to see if the Liberal Government will remove red tape for home based businesses.  I think it will go well, but I'm nervous.  With everything the Ivany report has told us about out migration and our aging population, we know how much we need to attract immigrants and people from other provinces.  I can only pray that this clarification will be loud, strong and clear.  The current economic reality calls for a strong solution.  I think the solution I submitted, that was written with the help of the foremost experts on the building code and planning that we have in this province is a strong and clear solution.

Melissa asked me about day to day life in Lunenburg.  Here's where I got to exhale.  I love this place.  I couldn't be happier.  There are so many young families.  I have more friends here than anywhere else that I have lived.  People talk to each other on the street.  People smile at each other as they pass.  The Banks, the post office and the town hall always have dog biscuits to hand out.  My son has so much freedom here.  He can walk to his friends' houses, go to the park by himself.  We have 2 pools, a skating rink, tennis courts, playgrounds, walking trails,  great little shops, cafes, restaurants and festivals.  On my one block, children are always playing on the street.  My beautiful 80 year old neighbour across the street has been crowned honorary grandmother and the kids always go over there to play and eat forbidden cookies.

And then this question, which I know must have been hard to ask.  My husband is from east Africa.  Our children are mixed race.  Do you think people are open minded in Lunenburg?  Deep breath.  Everyone that I am friends with is open minded and welcoming and I am friends with many people.  I will personally connect you to other moms raising babies and you will be welcomed.  How can I promise this woman that her children will never encounter a negative experience?  I can't.  Small mindedness exists in Lunenburg and Nova Scotia as it does all over Canada, but I don't think it will touch her daily life.  Nova Scotia is in the throws of change.  Change for the better.  Are there any other black people in Lunenburg?  Uhhhhh, Welllll, there's one, no two.  They are loved and welcomed.  I always see an adorable black boy skipping to school in the mornings.  That's three.  Oh, please come and make it six.  There is nothing more wonderful than multiculturalism.  It always makes a place better.  We need you here.

The Ivany Report has told us that all Nova Scotians need to do their part to help this province thrive.  I think I just contributed a little bit in one small way.  It was such a pleasure to participate in The Live Well in Lunenburg Video.  Spending half an hour here and there to convince someone to move here is really a privilege that was bestowed upon me by accident.  Now I need you guys reading this to do your part.  If you live in Lunenburg or elsewhere in Nova Scotia please leave a welcoming comment for Melissa and her husband Dennis and their two babies.  Tell them how much we need them here.  If you are Minister Furey, Minister Churchill or Premier McNeil please, please adopt a solution quickly.  Us regular folk can be friendly and welcoming till the cows come home, but if new families meet oppressive regulations and can not easily navigate the system then the work we do as ordinary citizens is of no value.  Oh, for crying out loud.  Look at this baby! I need to hug that guy.   Please, you guys at Province house just fix this building code/planning thing. The solution is easy and it's free.  Meanwhile, we here in Lunenburg and the rest of Nova Scoita will work on being as welcoming as humanly possible.

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