The Man That Bought His Own Town

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Almost a century ago the McKinnon family moved from Scotland to Canada.

My family, were looking to own land and start a new life in a new country. I can only imagine how fantastic an adventure that must've been. 

Eventually my ancestors ended up in a small town on the borders of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The little hamlet is called McLaughlin. It was there my grandfather purchased farm land and started his mechanics business.

It was a tough life especially since two world wars broke out shortly after the McKinnon family arrived in Canada. It was the spirit that encompassed this small community that kept Canada alive as a country. It was that same spirit of love- for freedom-that cost the lives of thousands fighting in the world wars.

As a kid, I visited the area often it was a great fun place with lots of wooded land and places to canoe and fish. I loved the area much more than my sisters, because I've always been an outdoorsy type. When I was there the town included a Chinese restaurant, grandpa's garage, post office (where Grandma worked) and a myriad of other business. 

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I remember exploring and accidentally walking into an area full of wasps. They did not like me. I probably had ten stings from the wasps. I remember running, crying, and yelling back to Grandma. I thought she was crazy when she grabbed wet mud and smeared it on my wasp stings. Especially so, when she put mud in my eye to cool the painful bite on my swollen eyelid.

Anyhow, fast-forward a number of years and I found myself working in that area of Alberta. It was a large oil and natural gas project that we were developing. One morning, I had some free time, so I thought I would drive past McLaughlin and see how the old town was surviving.

See the thing was, the town was basically dead. Most of the town buildings had been ripped down-with the exception of a few dilapidated structures and a fairly large church- the town was gone.

It came as a shock to me, to realize that most people had moved on from the area. And it was the first time I really understood the prairies reverse-gentrification. This is true throughout most of the prairie provinces of Canada, where hundreds of small towns have died.

Anyhow, I contacted the County of Vermilion River to see what was the story on the land in McLaughlin. The Reeve of the RM was actually quite receptive to my phone call. He told me that they were looking to redevelop the property in any manner possible. I asked him how much he was looking for, as I was thinking of possibly purchasing one lot. 

He said "$3000." 

I said "For a lot?". 

He said "No, for the whole town."

Long story short, a couple weeks later I was the Mayor and new owner of McLaughlin. 

When I see houses in Vancouver selling for $5 or $6 million it reminds me of the time I purchased a Canadian town. 

I don't know where this story is going to end. I'm not saying one course of action is better than the other, but I have learned there are always options to lifestyles on this planet.

If a person had income through a recurring source of revenue like a mobile office or Internet business, I believe McLaughlin would be a superior place to live. If you want to take it up a notch there's land in Ecuador that sells for $200 Per hectare. And you don't need heat to warm your house. 

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What's that kind of independence worth? One mini waterfall with enough hydro power to light the city of Vancouver- check-Abundance of water and sun to grow enough food to feed a city-check- A spotty internet connection peppered with the occasional kindness of strangers and laughter of children. A simple balancing act for sure...

Humans are a strange lot.