Lament for Sudbury’s golden age: City was transformed in the early 1980s through collective vision and drive – by Narasim Katary (Sudbury Star – August 3, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The golden age of Sudbury was from 1973 through 1985 — a period during which a mining town became a mind-full town.

A good definition of golden age is a period when there are notable peak activities. The transformative activity of any city consists of innovation for constant reinvention. During the golden age, the area that became Greater Sudbury excelled in innovation in a spectrum of fields.

The lament for the loss of creativity and confidence is an ancient art form: Veterans full of memories are aghast at the society that they think is behaving like a herd. A singular cohort often has a tendency to romanticize the period when they were active. People who know me well can attest to the fact I am notoriously resistant to the siren songs of Arcadian Romanticism. If anything, I am known to be in the tradition of English self-flagellation.

I title the period as the golden age because I was fortunat e to be a participant, observer and witness at close quarters to the performance of institutions in the city before the golden age and the functioning of the city after that period. In that sense, I am an equal opportunity offender. Knowledgeable people will point out the period commenced before I arrived on the scene and ended before I left the arena, thus absolving me of any contribution to its lustre.

The golden age, in the sense that I am using the term, is not some mythical Greek age of utopian perfection, but one where imperfections coexist with excellence. The golden age of Sudbury had its share of imperfections. The ordinary was well represented. The dominant character trait, however, was one of commitment to transformation coupled with the confidence to shape the future in one’s own image.

Good enough was not good enough when it came to important matters.

Although much of the credit for the culture of the golden age goes to the people who inhabited Sudbury, a significant measure of credit belongs to the executive branches of the provincial and federal governments that facilitated the transformation of the city with substantial aid. That all three levels of govern-m e nt during that period behaved in the manner in which they did is an unalloyed tribute to the people of Ontario and Canada who expect their representatives to reinforce and enhance the effective functioning of our three-tier structure of governance.


What made the period worthy of being labelled the golden age?

The golden age of Sudbury puts paid to the arid debate in academic history circles that social processes matter more than individuals. What happened in Sudbury is the exact opposite. Thoughtful community leaders seized the moment and set in motion a set of events that altered the mindscape of the city forever.

These people came from diverse backgrounds, but shared the common value that Sudbury had to move beyond being a resource city and become a knowledge city if it had any aspirations of participating in the evolving global economy. They exemplified the idea first put forward by a Russian astronomer, “Earth is the cradle of humanity, but you cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

The important thing to note is that these leaders acted on their value and ushered in the golden age.

The best evidence for the rise and fall of the golden age is writ large in the evolution of the city since 1985. It is true enough that commencing in 1975, employment in the mining industry has steadily declined to reach the current low plateau. The question that cries out for an answer is if employment in the core industry has continued to decline since 1985, why has there not been any set of responses comparable to that of the golden age?

For the rest of this column, click here: