News that super high-speed internet will soon be coming to Island living rooms may be welcome news to those tired of spotty connections to movie sites and deadly lag in first person shooters (or other games people play online), but the real boost will be to the economic fortunes of the North Shore and Manitoulin Island, locations that, until now, have been considered digital backwaters.
As the pandemic has clearly demonstrated, many occupations and businesses are no longer limited to locations in large urban centres. Provided a community possesses a strong onramp to the information superhighway, good paying jobs and rural lifestyles can now mesh better than they have pretty much for the first time in human history.
This will provide a veritable virtual revolution when it comes to the economies of Island communities and it is important that Manitoulin is ready to take advantage of these opportunities.
One of the potential impacts shining forth from the crystal ball is the potential for rural real estate prices—for good or ill, housing on Manitoulin is likely to continue to rise, even as it looks like prices are starting to stabilize in urban markets. Time will tell, but when a road is built through a remote area of the province, land prices tend to rise in tandem. The information highway will likely have a similar impact.
The potential influx of new residents will bring in new concerns, or exacerbate old issues, not the least of which is the strain those new residents may place on local infrastructure. Over the long term, this is generally considered a good problem to have, but in the short term such growth can result in a burden on local ratepayers if municipalities are not keeping their eyes on the many bouncing balls.
Many Island communities, the Northeast Town included, are approaching the limits of their sewage lagoons and are facing decisions on how to tackle their aging water plants—to expand or stand pat? These are just some of the questions that local municipal leaders must tackle in the coming years and tackling those questions will require planning and an eye to the future.
These are questions that Island ratepayers should be asking not only candidates in this fall’s municipal election but the provincial hopefuls contending for the Algoma-Manitoulin seat in the upcoming June provincial contest as well. The future may depend on it.