Labrador West Delegation

We met with a delegation from Labrador West on Thursday - a couple of mayors, councillors, industry and government representatives.  They were on a fact-finding mission wanting to learn more about how a resource-based community coped (and is coping) during a time of exponential growth and economic activity.  They are going through the wringer right now because the iron ore industry is super hot.

"What is causing the demand for iron ore?" I asked.

"China," said several delegates in unison.

The ungodly amount of construction happening in the Far East and in southeast Asia is having a significant ripple effect in this remote community about 7 hours north east of Baie-Comeau, Quebec.  Housing prices have skyrocketed, developable land is becoming scarce, and they are beyond capacity in dealing with their solid waste stream.  Sound familiar?

Mayor Melissa Blake was brilliant in providing our back story.  She has lived it, both as a two-term councillor and as a three-term mayor.  As she spoke about our journey through a boom, an untenable infrastructure deficit, and a never-ending challenge to champion the uniqueness of our situation to both senior levels of government, our friends from Labrador jotted down notes, asked questions and soaked in the knowledge.

"That conversation was amazing," said somebody as we drove down Franklin Avenue for a tour and visit at Keyano College.

They were in awe as we walked down the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and into the main foyer of the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre.  The shine on this apple, now five years old, still glimmers and impresses.

My favourite stop on this tour (which I seem to give at least a couple of times a month) is at the Alberta Building Trades Field where I describe the transformation that takes place every year when we put on the Keyano Foundation Gala, this year featuring LeAnn Rimes.

As we climbed the steps to the second level and stood adjacent to the running track and fitness centre, there was reverential silence as they took it all in.

"The view from the treadmills is amazing," I said.  "In the morning, you get to watch the sun rise up over the Clearwater River Valley.  There is nothing else like it in town."

"They are blown away by this," said one of the delegates, looking around to see the reaction of her colleagues.

They were scheduled to go on a tour of MacDonald Island with Tim Reid the following day.  It would have been fun to be a fly on the wall to see their reaction to that facility.

"It's actually the largest of its kind in Canada," I shared with Janice Barnes, the coordinator of the tour and an employee of the Newfoundland and Labrador government. She quickly gathered up her hens and shared that heretofore unknown factoid.

We enjoyed a meal with senior leadership at Keyano College, shared more stories, described successful collaborations with industry, and gave the post-secondary perspective of how we responded when incredible growth happens.

It was especially great to see a number of the delegates at Keyano Theatre later that evening.  They were very excited to hear that we had a street dancing show called IZM playing and jumped at the chance to attend.  They were sitting right in front of Ben and I as Crazy Smooth and his amazing ensemble of dancers knocked it out of the park, earning a standing ovation for their artistry, athleticism and passion.

In addition to their anticipated tour of MacDonald Island, the delegation was scheduled to meet with Bryan Lutes from the Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation, Jeff Penney from Economic Development, and take a trip through the Oil Sands Discovery Centre.

I suspect the entourage is on their way back to Labrador now, heads full of information, ideas and possible strategies to implement to better manage the growth curve that they are enduring, embracing.  Mayor Blake said it best when she articulated how important it is to share the wisdom we've gained over the years of struggling to catch up during a time of unparalleled development.  This was time well spent and we are so grateful that the Labrador delegation took the initiative to visit our region.

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