The City of Fernie website states that “Fernie is going through an economic renaissance and a period of socio-economic transition.” The article mentions that “numerous upgrades for Fernie tourist facilities are underway, with substantial investment accelerating growth in recreation and real estate sectors.” The City Council Meeting Minutes from January, 2010 to February, 2011 also purports tourism. A more accurate economic assessment of Fernie, may be determined by what is visible.
Vacant businesses: At first count, there are approximately 27 vacant businesses on prime properties on First, Second, and Third Avenues and on Seventh Avenue, along Highway 3.
Stores: Fernie shoppers are in Pincher Creek and Eureka buying groceries. They also buy bedding, kitchen and bath wares and furniture as well as most of their clothing in Alberta and Montana.
Restaurants: Often, especially during the week, several of the restaurants have as few as two customers and no more than six seated during the peak hours of meal time.
Housing: Rentals occupy numerous visitors. Many of these rentals are owned by absentee landlords. Also, virtually on every block, are empty houses owned by part-time residents and houses for sale.
Education: The population of the public school system has decreased significantly resulting in the closure of two elementary schools and discontinued academic and extra curricular programs in Fernie Secondary.
Because of lack of amenities and educational programs, potential residents have refused jobs in Fernie.
Employment: City officials have not recruited industry and business to attract population in the resource industry or public sector jobs to Fernie.
This results in loss of population, significant reduction in disposable income spent in Fernie, and lower participation of persons in community activities.
Community facilities: The Community Centre is outdated. Its poor aesthetic appeal fails to attract a significant number of conventions, business, and cultural events.
The Senior Centre needs a refreshed look.
Streets: First Avenue leading to the Fernie Secondary School and the Learning Centre is not paved.
The access to St. Margaret’s Cemetery is not paved.
The poor accessibility indicates the lack of importance of these facilities to the City.
Iconic buildings such as the Royal Canadian Legion, the Elks Lodge, and the Holy Family Catholic Centre are in need of upkeep. The Masonic Lodge Building has sold. These buildings and the organizations they represent have served the community greatly by providing space for public use and a wealth of services.
The visible decline refutes the idea of economic renaissance. The period of socio-economic transition, beginning in the nineties, favoured an industry accounting for approximately 10 per cent of the economy. An economic renaissance can only occur by recruiting industry and business with well-paying jobs to increase a stable population.