CFN – Youth retention is a huge issue in Cornwall Ontario, and while it’s easy to make it an election issue there’s very little any candidate can do to change the course and direction of what’s happening here in our fair city.
Today I was talking with a young man that was planning to run for council. He’s born and bred here in Cornwall, but his girlfriend couldn’t find a good job.
We talked about some of the issues and they were the same things. If you weren’t “connected” you couldn’t get a good job. Connected being to one of the Cornwall cliques. Many locals and outsiders have complained of choice gigs going to people who had no background or skill set and as you can imagine when you do have those skill sets it can be frustrating; especially if your options or a dead end service job….or worse.
We had a young woman who grew up in the East End. She did well, went to college and ended up on a Billboard on 9th Street as the face of our future. She moved to Ottawa when her boyfriend couldn’t get a good job in Cornwall and she was connected, having a great job and future at City Hall.
Culture, community, things to do, places to go, schools, shopping, local government; are all issues at play in many communities as well as Cornwall. The attraction of going to a bigger city like Ottawa, Montreal, or Toronto is always attractive to young people and yes, some do come back; but not enough. Actually some have actually mentioned one of the best things about Cornwall is that you can have a better quality of life here and party in Montreal or Ottawa in a relatively short time.
Cornwall has been hoping to attract Francophones from Quebec and I get that theory. So far it hasn’t been terribly successful and it’s upset a lot of Unilingual Anglophones in Cornwall. It’s actually contributed to driving away a lot of young people as well who head West seeking jobs after graduating from local schools without the language skills to qualify for those bilingual jobs.
The only thing elected officials can do is support initiatives that make Cornwall more attractive, and that’s something that has failed to date as it’s mostly just given some lip service and a bit of cash to sycophants of the administration. We need to shine as a community to attract businesses, artists, and investment. We need to make Cornwall a community that more people want to live in.
That won’t happen easy and it won’t happen until we start to support people that truly are making change and achieving something.
The days of giving out city dollars and support to friends of friends, akin to telling a child their picture is awesome and putting it on the fridge door do not lead to youth retention. It certainly is something that people should think about. I know we tried with out 100 Letter Campaign about what’s amazing about Cornwall, but sadly the Mayor and Council sabotaged it calling it a “Security Issue” and refusing to support or cooperate with the three month program.
The city, which spends nearly $300K per year on advertising, also refused to sponsor a series on how attractive Cornwall could be to distance workers; IE people that work from home for big companies like IBM in the digital world who bring a lot to a community.
We can do better, and we must if we want Cornwall to grow! The good news is that there’s more room for improvement than for failure, but it will take a real change in culture to move forward.