A big thanks to everyone who read my LRC cover piece Reforging Ontario and the invaluable feedback I've received. The problems we are having in Southwestern Ontario are rather severe, so the more smart people we have thinking about these issues, the better.
The piece ended up being a very personal one in a lot of obvious ways. It was also very personal in a non-obvious way in that my general outlook on the region's problems is heavily influenced by the Stockdale Paradox (I highly recommend checking out the link). Admiral Stockdale's description of the paradox:
This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
Too much of the commentary on Southwestern Ontario falls into two camps. The first is the "we're all dead, party's over, it's time to mass migrate to Toronto/ Alberta/ Boston/ Shanghai". The second is the "there's no real problems here, just a bunch of negative nellies who are dragging the rest of us down!". I once had someone tell me that "London's only problem is that Londoners talk the city down. If we were just all more positive, all of our problems would go away!". I just shook my head and walked away. The "brutal fact" of our reality is that the kind of labour-intensive manufacturing our region has relied on for generations is going away thanks to a combination of automation and globalization.
I do think the Stockdale Paradox is the appropriate lens for the issue, but I have to admit that my personality naturally gravitates towards that type of "triangulation" (as a good friend calls it). I just don't see how either hopelessness or a refusal to face facts will help recover a region so many of us call home.
Despite my occasional outbursts and frustrations, I do think politicians and political-types are listening and do want to help. I have been blessed to have so many great chats with everyone from dozens of municipal politicians to my fellow members of Trudeau's Economic Advisory Council to bureaucrats on Queen's Park. I've had too many cups of coffee at the Bridgehead at Sparks&Metcalfe with political staffers from each party that I think they've memorized my order. I'm still hoping to be in the same place at the same time at The Hon. Jason Kenney so I can take him up on his meeting invitation.
It is not too late to save the Southwest. It's going to take an awful lot of work, but it's worth it.