Editorials - Aug. 5, 2022
A rock and a hard place
Ontario’s small towns were once the epitome of self-sufficiency. Town residents and the families from nearby farms could buy almost anything they would want or need downtown and the Sears catalogue looked after the rest.
Over the past few decades, the nature of both the shops and the shoppers gradually changed. First, cars became more reliable and inexpensive, allowing the locals to head to larger urban centres and the allure of the mall and then “big box” stores, resulting in less choice for groceries, clothing and other dry goods remaining in small town retail stores. When catalogue shopping was replaced by the internet, many independent retailers’ fates were sealed.
If a town had any marketable attraction, such as a theatre or a beach, stores opened that would appeal to tourists, but no longer filled the everyday needs of the people who lived there. Now we can buy knick-knacks in our hometowns, but often have to travel or surf the net to buy knickers. We are constantly reminded to “shop local”, but for many items that is no longer practical or sometimes even possible.
Now, as the pandemic taught us, relying on visitors to keep our downtowns open is a risky business, especially in small towns with little else, but that is where the retail spiral has left us. – DS
It could happen to you
It is likely easy for those in urban centres like Toronto, Ottawa or London to point to issues being experienced in rural or Northern Ontario and react with a shrug, thinking those are other problems being experienced by other people. And that can be true at times. However, communities like Huron County and others can often function as the canary in the coalmine, sounding the alarm before our problems find themselves manifesting in the province’s larger urban communities.
In recent years, skeleton nursing staffs, relentless efforts to recruit doctors to the area and emergency room closures have been common in Huron County, intensifying in the past year or so. Now, recent brushes with potential closure at hospitals in Toronto and other large centres, as well as closures and limited services at hospitals in cities like Kingston and Bowmanville have resulted in headlines for the country’s biggest newspapers and networks. Over the Civic Holiday weekend, more than 20 Ontario hospitals were forced to close emergency rooms or limit services in one way or another due to staffing shortages. This comes after Dr. Raghu Venugopal, an emergency room physician in Toronto, gave a widely-read interview in which he told Global News that the healthcare system isn’t collapsing, but that it had “already collapsed” causing concern for many.
In a community like Huron County, with its sprawling geography and relatively low population, systems stretching is a given in this day and age. In terms of healthcare, however, it’s clear that it isn’t a case of “those people out there” mismanaging their resources. The problems are national, we are just among the first to know it. – SL
Worth the wait
While there were a lot of questions over the past several years as to whether the event could go forward, or whether it would have to be different from past iterations, the 150th Brussels Homecoming held over the weekend has been heralded as a success by organizers and the community alike after a jam-packed five days of activity and fun.
The event has been years in the making, and, during that time, the committee responsible for it had to face the normal stress of putting together a five-day event the magnitude of which impresses everyone involved. On top of that, however, the committee had the unenviable task of dealing with the potential impacts of COVID-19 and the changes necessary to work around the possible renovations of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre. Despite all that, the committee pulled together an event which had people on social media and in the streets singing the praises of it, especially some of the highlights like the Masked Singer fundraising show and the popular parade.
The committee of just over a dozen people, leading even more volunteers through seven sub-committees, worked for years to make sure the event was successful and memorable and they should be congratulated on the hard work they did from planning the event to hosting it and then to cleaning up afterwards. Between the committee, sub-committees and the general volunteers who came out of the woodwork to help with every aspect of the event, the event was a true community spectacle, being both for and by the community.
So, kudos to all those involved. You hosted one of the largest events since the world hit pause back in March of 2020 and it was great to see the community benefit from all your hard work and to see people return to the community after five, 10 or even more years away, reconnecting with old friends and showing the strength of a small, rural community when everyone pulls together in the same direction. – JDS