Saturday, January 9, 2016

Nova Scotia's Legacy -A Letter from Clayton Banfield.

When I began this battle I thought it was simply about building codes, bylaws and zoning.  I had hoped that   clearing up an administrative error could make it easier for the next guy trying to run a business in Lunenburg.  If all towns, municipalities and building officials had a clear understanding of what Home Based Business is and what it isn't, then home based businesses across our Province would be able to operate without fear of being shut down.   Little did I know that I had opened up a can of worms.  I should have been tipped off by the 100 people that showed up to support me at the original Planning Advisory Committee meeting, here in Lunenburg, that this was about something bigger than my own challenge.

I still believe that my small effort at the upcoming Provincial Presentation on Sept. 16th may have a positive effect for small businesses in this Province, but that will be just one tiny repair.  The most difficult repair is to something we can not see, attitudes, biases, bigotry and fear.  Can we as communities create forums to try to bring both sides together? 

The following letter is from Clayton Banfield, an entrepreneur, a thinker and a local if there ever was one:

I was born to a family who can trace their origins back to some of the first European settlers of Lunenburg County and Newfoundland. Family names are found on “Founders” monuments and Fisherman's Memorials for having “Gone Down to the Sea in Ships.” My father is a past Master of the Bluenose II and my grandfather was a charter member of the LaHave River Credit Union. It's charter signed in what is now my Uncle's Living room. I am legacy. Not just of Lunenburg, but the whole of Lunenburg County.

In the early 90's I left home to get an education, travel and gain life experience. I came back with ambition, a vision, a overly romanticized vision of what life could be like here. Despite our economic and social conditions, we have tremendous opportunities here. After my travels, I still wanted to make my life's success here. I've been home now for 19 years. It's not been easy. I have tried many businesses, tried to advance many ideas. I have had to deal with regulations and those who enforce them to find ways to make my ideas happen. I know that creation isn't easy but the joy that some take in saying “NO” or in assuming that you will spend vast amounts of money because they say so, is a bit much to take. They order and bully without fear of retribution or consequence.

I have been reading with great interest Anna Shoub's struggles with the Town of Lunenburg and the recent published letter to Anna from the people at Harris House detailing their exhausting attempt to make a wonderful life here in Nova Scotia. Intelligent, talented people who want only to make their lives here, are being drained financially and spiritually by our society. Successful people prior to coming here, well traveled people, who have been able to thrive in some of the most competitive places on the planet. All this, has not prepared them for the depth of ingrained bigotry towards the CFA, the New, prevalent in Nova Scotia. We should all be ashamed. I know I am for I have done little to affect a change in our culture, though I have tried.

Fear rules here. Fear of the new. Fear of change. Fear of other people not from here. Fear of those of us who left and came back (To some, I am worse than a “CFA.” I had the audacity to leave and come back). Fear of ideas. Fear of the implementation of those ideas. In response to that fear the unofficial motto of Nova Scotia has become, “Not Here!” It is pervasive and it's a cancer. Cancer lives at the expense of it's host ultimately killing it. The recent published findings of the Ivany Report (one of the best examples of stating the obvious ever created in this Province) has pointed this fact out and has prompted many to pull their heads out of the sand. Well partially.

A few years ago, I was able to entice a friend to NS to lay the ground work for a business that held great promise. It would provide skilled technical jobs, make use of dilapidated infrastructure and be a toehold for bringing more new people, businesses and ideas to Nova Scotia. My pitch, that Nova Scotia was “Open for Business.” Two years and $250,000.00 later we discovered that not to be the case. My friend, who has extensive business dealings all over North America, likened this experience with those he had in Southern US states. Only worse. He was at least able to make those deals happen. Six months later he was able to get started in Texas and raise over $10 million in startup capital. They have invested with Universities to develop new technologies and now have three manufacturing plants. Nova Scotia said, “Not Here!”
I read fellow Nova Scotian, Captain Joshua Slocum's book “Sailing Alone Around the World” a while ago. Here's an excerpt; “the people of this coast, hardy, robust, and strong, are disposed to compete in the world's commerce.” Slocum saw fit to write that line in the first paragraph of the first chapter of his book. He felt the need to tell the reader, with great pride, what sort of place bread an individual that could sail alone around the world in 1895 at age fifty-one. When I read those words, I had to re-read them. I found them to be at odds with what we are as a people now. He spoke of a people that we don't learn about. A people looking to engage with the world. A people in the process of making history, as he was doing.

We are ultimately responsible for how we are governed. The state of things in Nova Scotia is our collective fault. The fault of those of us who have stayed and the fault of those of us who have left. It is our fault for not fighting for a better, more open, inclusive society. It is our fault that our children don't see a future of opportunity here. Our apathy has allowed for those who are the least among us to be our political masters. It has allowed legacy power structures and old moneyed families to still hold sway after their relevance has long since faded. These people are quite adept at saying “NO” to everything they don't understand or that they can't see a way for them to personally profit from. They like saying “Not here”. Not Here, is a failure of imagination. A failure to comprehend the consequences of our collective fear.

We are better than that. We have to be. We are the children of those hearty people that Joshua Slocum described so well to the world 120 years ago. We are the children of tenacity. Of a people who carved a modern life for themselves from the wilderness of Nova Scotia using the resources that their ingenuity could provide. We are the children of people who designed and built some of the fastest sailing vessels of their age. We are the children of people who invented technologies that helped make our modern world possible. We have a right to be proud of our history. It is best preserved by continuing to live according to the principles and attributes that made our history possible. We were once a wealthy Province, one of inclusion and engagement. This is our ancestral inheritance. This is how we make things better.

It's our time.

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