Ed. note: In order to add context to this week’s editorial, we would encourage you to read the story about the La Forge Country Music Festival on Pg. 3 before reading Mr. Anderson’s editorial.

Kevin Anderson


I love to win.

As a hockey coach, I loved to win – not so much for myself, but for the kids I was tasked with coaching. I wanted them to reap the benefits for their efforts.

That being the case, I always used every tool at my disposal to ensure a positive outcome for the kids, whether it was ensuring I got the last line change in or planting seeds in the referee’s head about what players on the other team should be watched because they were “dirty” or any variety of other methods… If it was within the rules, it was fair game.

Even now that my career as a coach is over, I still love to win.

If I get into a debate with someone about whatever the subject happens to be, I make every effort to make sure my point of view is the prevailing one.

It’s often made me wonder if I would have made a good lawyer… but my chosen career path is neither here nor there.

The reason I’m telling you about all of this is because with the current controversy surrounding La Forge’s annual Country Music Festival, I see two parties who want to win.

The problem is, as opposed to being so used to arguing one side of an issue, this time I feel as though both parties have valid points.

La Forge has been holding the festival at their current location without incident for the past seven years. That being the case, they fully expect to be able to hold the eighth edition of the festival on their property.

They’ve made investments to upgrade their facilities to better accommodate their guests.

They feel the festival is good for the town, with both locals and out-of-towners descending upon the event annually for what, if I’m being honest, is a pretty darned good time.

I love to see the smiling faces, the dancing and to listen to the music. I’m impressed by it.

They believe they have a strong case… and they’re right.

La Forge’s neighbour is Details Home Décor, a local business owned by entrepreneur Norm LeBel.

Mr. LeBel says the festival negatively affects his business with all of the traffic congestion in addition to land use issues and he would like to see the festival move to a different location.

As an entrepreneur, he relies on every sale to be able keep his business open, pay his employees and earn a decent livelihood for himself.

Much like the festival, if I’m being honest, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Mr. LeBel’s business on several occasions and was thoroughly impressed with what Details has to offer.

Factor in La Forge’s residential zoning and regardless of what past-practice for the festival has been, Mr. LeBel thinks he has a strong case… and he’s right.

The parties are at an impasse, with apparently no wiggle room for negotiations. They both want to “win”.

The problem is if no one can figure out a way to overcome this hurdle, everyone stands to come out losers.

La Forge will lose its festival because their facility is zoned residential and therefor requires them to apply for a Temporary Use By-Law Amendment, which would allow them to stage the event on their property.

That Temporary Use By-Law Amendment is however subject to objections from neighbours from within a 400-foot radius of La Forge’s property.

Mr. Lebel has made no bones about the fact that he intends to contest the amendment when the time comes, which means…

Mr. LeBel will lose.

If you accept his assertion that the festival negatively affects his business on its face, then you have to accept his argument that the festival should be moved to a location that can better accommodate the volume of traffic that comes with it.

A former Kapuskasing mayor told me on more than one occasion that entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of this community. If that’s the case, do we really want to do anything to hurt their businesses?

The hitch is if the festival doesn’t take place, Mr. LeBel will almost inevitably bear the brunt of the blame from both La Forge and those who were planning to attend even though he’s just trying to do what’s right for his business.

Now, I can almost hear some of you out there saying: “Okay then smart guy, what’s your solution.”

It probably won’t win me any friends, but I think it would be wise for the folks at La Forge to reconsider their position and the Town’s offer to help them relocate the festival with “highly flexible” costs.

The fact is, when it comes right down to it the planning by-laws favour Mr. LeBel’s position and if neither party is willing to budge, the eighth edition of the La Forge Country Festival likely won’t see the light of day and that would be an absolute shame.

Personally, I would much rather see the festival move than disappear and frankly, I wouldn’t see it as a “loss” for La Forge.

If anything, I see it as a win for the organization that they have a created a festival that is so wildly popular, that it has outgrown its venue.

I see it as a win for many elder members of our community, who I rarely see at other community events like Le Festival de la St-Jean or the Lumberjack Heritage Festival, but who I recognize year after year at the festival.

I see it as a win for out-of-towners, who mark the festival on their calendars as a yearly summer destination. Who knows? Maybe with more room, even more people would make the trek.

Most of all, I see it as a win for our community. We need more events like this to pop up, not disappear, and La Forge has provided and can continue to provide other organizations with a fantastic blueprint to work from.