It is strange to think of a community in its centennial year as having an identity crisis, but that is precisely the problem that confronts Morinville 100 years after the community became a town. An identity crisis is (psychologically speaking) a condition that occurs when someone fails to achieve ego identity in their adolescence. Morinville is rapidly leaving its adolescence for adulthood and experiencing the growing pains and confusion that any young adult experiences. It appears in many respects that it is reaching for adulthood before truly “finding itself” or at least finding its place in a changing world.
That is by no means a criticism of the Town of Morinville’s efforts to rebrand the community or to develop a Municipal Sustainability Plan, the latter a federally-mandated condition for receiving federal gas tax monies. The difference here is that Morinville actually developed something from scratch and intends to follow it rather than merely paying lip service to some cookie-cutter-shut-the-feds-up document like other communities may have done.
But the fact that Morinville is looking to step into the future with a new logo and a new attitude shows the community is changing, growing, finding itself or at least finding its place in a changing world.
Five years ago, Morinville had angled parking on 100 Avenue, stop signs at its major intersection and a newspaper that as often as not would have a picture of a farm animal on the cover each week. Five years later and 100 Avenue is a four lane highway running through town, punctuated by a set of traffic lights at the major intersection where stop signs had sufficed before. It also has an independently-run daily online news source and a weekly news magazine, neither of which is ever likely to put a cow on the front page of any issue, let alone every other issue as was the custom in recent years gone by.
For good or for ill these changes have occurred as the Town of Morinville has grown in the number of houses, grown in the number of residents, and grown in the number of diverse opinions – opinions on what Morinville is and is not and on what Morinville should and should not be.
The historical and cultural roots of this community are withering. That’s not to say Morinville families whose ancestors were the founders of this community are abandoning their historical and cultural heritage or taking any less pride in the same, but the boost in population over the past half-decade has brought with it new traditions and new history, traditions and history that can and should be blended with Morinville’s existing story to create new chapters in the ongoing tale of this community.
We can cling all we like to the cliff of tradition, but the fingers grow tired and the grasp weakens. Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie was cancelled this year, at least in front of the Town Offices; none of the above was the top choice in our recent poll on favourite Morinville event, and the status quo of Catholic public schools is being challenged by a new generation of young Morinville parents who are not content with their children coming home from a public school with theological ideas learned outside the jurisdiction of home and church.
The school issue has exploded over the past week. Coverage in a national newspaper will do just that. While the nation looks in on Morinville it undoubtedly sees an absurd situation. Not such an absurd situation if you’ve lived here all your life.
But whether it is the Catholic public school issue, the odour situation at Champion, photo radar or almost any other issue in Morinville, much of the reaction for or against any matter can be boiled down to fear and loathing. Fear that to give you something new and different takes away something old and familiar from me. And loathing, that intense dislike and disgust for the newcomers that want to bring their big city ways to a community that did just fine before them, and an equally intense loathing of the long-time residents whose xenophobia won’t open the doors to the community the newcomers have chosen to call home.
It’s high time the adolescents of all ages in this community sat down together for an adult conversation on some of these issues. Perhaps then Morinville can overcome its identity crisis and work towards maturity.