Boo hoo. Once again, Hawkesbury has been named as one of the worst places to live in Canada. It’s not the first time we have read this, nor is it the first time we have shared these findings with you. Do you agree? Is it that bad to live in Hawkesbury? The active real estate market would decry this notion. The recent free ONTour concert, a bustling bike fest and the town’s efforts to ensure Canada Day festivities did take place for its population all bely this notion that Hawkesbury sucks, to put it bluntly. Some argue that our regional government, which has placed a high concentration of low-income housing in Hawkesbury, is partly to blame for the low-income figures and the low education levels which always emerge from any study. Let’s hope that studies or analysis of Hawkesbury take this into account. Let’s go out on a limb and suggest that the October radiotelethon fundraiser for a new CT scan and MRI unit for the Hawkesbury and District General, with donations pouring in to reach the desired goal of $4 million. And all of this, happening in the poorest town in Eastern Ontario. Okay, perhaps the funds are coming in from across the region and perhaps (gasp) even from nearby Quebec residents, many of whom consider the Hawkesbury hospital as their own. Surely we are all growing weary of this sad story of “poor” Hawkesbury. Perhaps a community which provides a safe harbour for low-income people could become known as the compassion capital of Ontario. Yet, if we are ready to set aside blame and look for something better, let’s also put away the rose-coloured glasses and agree that action, not just words, are needed to make things better. How does one create a thriving and healthy community? It takes time. And people. Sometimes, it is easier for everyone to feel a commonality in a smaller community and that may be something that Hawkesbury does not have going for it. It is big. Big enough for disparity. Big enough for the differences between people to stick out more than what they have in common with each other. Perhaps it has been a good start for the municipality to create bike paths and host a few big parties for the community, like the recent western music event at Place des Pionniers. Kudos to those who have formed the Hawkesbury Running Club — and no jokes about them running across the bridge to Quebec; the runners always come back. A volleyball court has been a recent positive addition to Confederation Park. But things will really change when more of the residents who live in Hawkesbury decide to make a difference, working with a municipal council that is responsive and supportive to community volunteers. One can look just a few kilometres down the road to see fairs, parks, flowers being planted, sports, tournaments, festivals, welcome signs and events happening and almost all of these are organized by people who believe in their communities and in their municipalities. They hope for good things for the future. They believe that they can make a difference and that what they do counts for something. And oh yes, all these people work for free. As the major centre in Eastern Ontario, we could all find ways to make Hawkesbury a better place. Offer time. Offer help. Talk to people when you shop there and tell them honestly and politely what would make it better for you, instead of taking your complaints home and vowing never to return. Maybe Hawkesbury does have a way to go. Let’s hope that everyone, including its neighbours, are ready to extend a helping hand.
• By Louise Sproulelouise@thereview.ca