Cochrane has an identity issue.

It’s becoming apparent (to me at least) that a lot of the underlying political tension in the town of Cochrane these days resides in fundamentally opposing views of both what this town is currently, and what it’s going to be in the future.

On the one hand, you’ve got the publisher of a local paper referring to it as “the wee village by the Bow” every week. On the other hand, you look at the census data (17, 500 people and counting), and quickly realize that we haven’t lived in a village since sometime pre-1971 (when the population went over 1000 residents for the first time).

I was at an engagement workshop, discussing transit, a few weeks ago and was “informed” by a lovely elderly lady that this town doesn’t have a lot of money, and ‘we’ can’t afford ‘frivolous’ things like transit. Interesting view, considering the median income in 2005 (the 2011 census data hasn’t been fully released yet) showed an income of $91, 575 in Cochrane (compared to $73, 823 in AB).

So, to get this straight, we’re a poor little village by the river?

Now, I’m not trying to dispute the fact that there are people in this town that struggle to make ends meet, or that being on a fixed income isn’t tough in the face of rising costs. The point I’m trying to make is that there are at least 2 (probably more) lenses in which different people view this “town” (we could be a city, given the population over 10K). And this poses a major challenge.

If we can’t get a clear picture of where we are now, how the heck are we going to agree on a shared vision for the future? If people are unwilling to look past the short term impact on their taxes, how are we going to intelligently grow an infrastructure capable of supporting a population 2-3 times this size in the coming decades?

Apparently there’s also quite a fuss brewing over the addition of a Francophone elementary school on the Mitford site, because the traffic on Quigley is so terrible. Instead of trying to find solutions to that problem, some residents are protesting the school itself. That’s right, it’s more important to quickly get from A to B in your single passenger car then to build places of learning for children. Makes sense.

On the one hand, we’ve got the Cochrane Sustainability Plan winning “visionary community” awards. On the other we have the local publisher recently asking “what is the Cochrane Sustainability Plan“? Well, unless you were dead or in Edmonton you’d know that the CSP was designed to help Cochrane resolve this identity issue, and plan for the unprecedented success of this ‘wee village by the Bow’.

You don’t have to like it, but Cochrane’s growing. Fast. Pretending it’s not happening (and not going to happen) isn’t going to fix it. In fact, it might just make it worse.

2 comments

  1. This town is not the one I grew up in, nor is it the one I really want to live in if it continues like this. I agree there is an identity issue and people choose which hat they are going to wear depending how they feel about each individual issue instead of seeing it all as connected – economics, transportation, communication, environment, politics – these are seemingly separate issues that people take all kinds of different stances on but it’s time to tie it all together and realize that you can’t complain about snow removal and then whine that there isn’t enough money for a humane society, all the while driving/parking cars for every other person which means more roads to plow and then scream bloody murder every time your taxes go up. It’s a chain of events, and as the law goes “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.

    1. Thanks for commenting Rebecca… it’s certainly an interesting mix of perspectives sometimes. Wouldn’t it be nice if a systems approach was applied to some of these issues, considering how connected they are? You’re right about all these seemingly separate issues that are actually quite closely tied.

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