When I was a kid, I did a lot of my growing up in the aisles of the Dugald Convenience Store. The store which sits right on Highway 15 across from the Curling Rink, is owned by my aunties Sandy and Cathy King since forever. And when my parents got tired of my incessant questions about everything, which was often, they would send me and my brother over to Auntie’s place.
Working in the store as a kid was awesome. I’ve been handling money since I was old enough to pick it up. My “burgler alarms” which were constructed from cereal boxes and jars stacked across the aisles were effective at notifying my aunties that customers were attempting to shop. I got paid in treats and hugs and the only downside was that every old lady and gentleman insisted on touching my head because of my curly blonde hair (which my daughter inherited.)
As a teen I started working for real, first at my aunties store, then for my dad’s tile business, the Cook’s Creek General Store (one of the coolest little store’s ever), and for a family friend in a machine shop fixing parts for trains. The common thing about all of these places is that they were all small local businesses. That’s where I learned about work. I learned first hand that when you are a small business owner, your business is your life. I often wouldn’t see my dad because he would be working late finishing jobs. I remember my aunty telling me how someone stealing a bottle of liquor from the store could wipe out a day’s profits. My boss Gloria at the Cook’s Creek Store told me it was my job to learn every customer’s name and to talk with them, because maintaining relationships with customers was key to survival in a world of big box stores.
Small businesses face different challenges than big business. But having healthy small businesses are critital elements of a community.
I kept working at those stores, at the machine shop, and for my old man all throughout University. On my shift at the machine shop I would write my dissertations in my mind while cleaning Gear Cases, then hammer them out on the keyboard after a shift at the store. At the University of Winnipeg I focused my studies in Environmental Politics, Canadian Public Policy, Law, and Economics.
Being from a rural area, and having first hand relationship with small business, gave me a different perspective on these issues. Politicians often talk about supporting small businesses but too often their “support” ends up playing favourites, usually to insiders and influential corporations, and there are unfortunately plenty of examples of that. Supporting small businesses means creating a fair and transparent system of regulation, so all companies are playing by the same rules. Supporting businesses means removing barriers to new start ups, to help them over the hump of the first year, so that they can grow into contributing members of the community. Supporting small businesses means having a Economic Development Office that responds quickly and effectively to the needs of the community.
The government’s job, however, is to always protect the people, first and foremost.
The government should not bend over backwards so some people can make gross amounts of money. When the town was doing everything they could to try and court Chinese investment, that was the wrong plan. Do you think that a big Chinese or other Large company would come to Pinawa without some big concessions by us, the people? And once that operation was here and those concessions were no longer good enough, that Pinawa would have much leverage against a team of high paid lawyers? And who knows how many of those jobs would actually go to Pinawanians. The government cannot be blinded by the allure of promisary money. You need to be cautious when dealing with big businesses whose sole motivation is maximising profits.
Of course businesses can provide jobs and services to the people, that’s great! But most businesses also come with negative externalities as well. For example the externality of potential nuclear contamination! Or something that we are feeling a bit more lately, the externalities from the growing Tourism industry in town.
Many people in town are concerned with the explosion in Tourism popularity in town and I share your concerns.
I see the economic potential of the tourism industry in a place like Pinawa, but it has to be managed. It cannot be like the Wild West. We don’t want conflict, or environmental degradation, or incurring a loss of revenue due to having to clean up after others! The council must show leadership to set out the rules, fair rules, that allow businesses to operate in a way that is consistent with the values and identity of the Pinawa community.
As counsellor I will work towards a fair and open business environment by:
- Developing a comprehensive townwide tourism management plan that lays the framework for the industry in town in a way that encourages sustainable profits for business while protecting the interests and concerns of the people.
- In consultation with the Pinawa Chamber of Commerce, the Children’s Co-op Daycare Board, parents, and other stakeholders, work to improve access to Daycare spots so that young working families are able to manage their business and family obligations! Access to quality daycare services is a key consideration for entrepreneurs with young children who are considering moving to Pinawa.
- Working with the tourism industry to create a Code of Ethics for operators. This code would outline the expectations of operators to maintain good practice of environmental stewardship and community standards. Having an agreement like this for all parties would ensure that all operators have confidence that they are on the same page, playing by the same rules. And would help protect them from being undercut by less scrupulous business folks, for example a bar in LdB dropping off a party bus of floaters in our town.
- Working together with all businesses in and around the Pinawa Channel area to come up with a comprehensive organizational plan that fairly facilitates eco-tourism and commerce, while protecting the interests of residents and the environment. This plan would create a framework for improving the logistics and impact of activities over several years with the goal being to offer a superior experience to visitors, enhanced environmental protection, reduced traffic issues, and smoother operations for outfitters. As the town moves forward with acquiring that segment of highway this plan is absolutely critical as it incorporates kilometers of road and highway, waterways, businesses, sensitive areas, the cemetary, trails, visitor safety, dozens of jobs, and significant potential revenue. It’s important that this plan is transparent, cooperative, and accountable as it affects an important economical, environmental, and cultural asset. I want to bring these objectives together in a way that we can all be proud of!
- As part of the Channel Plan above, develop a revenue structure that is based on usage. Using a combination of parking fees, point of sale tax, and rental agreements with operators, we can develop a streamlined and fair system that works. This would ensure that the people of Pinawa see a direct financial benefit from the tourism industry, while also benefiting the industry itself. Revenue from these sources would be reinvested in parks, beaches, docks, signage, trails, promotional materials, and other initiatives that improve the quality of life for Pinawanians, and the quality of experience for visitors.
- Promoting the development of Mixed-use commercial/residential development in the central commercial district (the undeveloped area between Burrows, Vanier, Besbourough and Willis). This sort of development (business on bottom, residential on top) fills two niches that are underserved in Pinawa currently, those being; the severe lack of centrally located commercial space, and the lack of apartments and condos. Mixed use areas are more vibrant and more cost effective for a town. Also, it opens up more opportunity for a new entrepreneur as they could potentially open their business on the ground floor and live in the same building. This can reduce costs and makes it more attractive to an entrepreneur.
- Improving communication between the LGD and the business community. I keep hearing about this feeling around here that you need to have an “in” or be connected somehow. Whether that is true or not, it is still something that needs to be addressed because it is imperative that people have confidence that everyone will be treated fairly! Any sense of favourtism can have a chilling effect on the economy as other entrepreneurs will feel discouraged to even start.
- Encouraging through advertising and networking, the benefits of shopping local and highlighting all of the amazing local businesses in our area. If you need somethign fixed, call the local guy! When your friends come to visit, tell them to rent out the cabin, or a room, or a camping spot! If you want to go on the channel float, don’t go to Canadian Tire in Winnipeg to buy a cheap tube, talk to one of our local outfitters they will hook you up (with a way better experience I might add)! Rent a canoe or a paddleboard, play a round of golf, get a massage, buy some local art, or do a fitness class at the gym. The best way that Pinawa can support local businesses, is to support local businesses!
I have been around small business all my life, and I can tell you 100% that it is not tax cuts or variances or investment from China that supports the economy, it’s people. The relationship between community and small business is what makes it or breaks it. I consider so many of the entrepreneurs and business owners in town my friends, and I want all of them to be super successful! Those business owners who know me well, know that I care about them and this town. They also know that I’m a straight shooter, and if we disagree on something, I’m always willing to tell them why and back it up with supporting facts and information. It’s that sort of mutual respect and cooperation that will build confidence within the business community, while at the same time, always advancing the interests of the citizens of Pinawa.
Please, make a committment to try and shop locally and intentionally whenever you can 🙂