It’s time for neglected rural reinvestment
Posted on October 2, 2015 by Christopher Thrall
“Despite the vital role of rural places in this country we have ignored rural Canada and run down the capital invested in rural regions by previous generations.” – State of Rural Canada report
Sean Markey doesn’t mince words. “We have been neglecting rural Canada,” he said. “There is no question about it. Despite the vital role of rural places in this country we have ignored rural Canada and run down the capital invested in rural regions by previous generations.” Markey, an associate professor at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is a co-author on the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation’s State of Rural Canada report exploring the current state of rural Canada set for release on September 17 at the Building Community Resilience Conference in Summerside, PEI.
Markey and his colleagues from across Canada identified key trends within each province and territory and came up with a series of recommendations for advancing rural development in this country.
“Despite a number of withdrawals from rural development at both the federal and provincial levels since 2013, rural Canada still matters,” says Lars Hallstrom of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities. “As this report shows, not only are there significant innovations and opportunities in rural communities across the country, but also good reason for collaboration, co-operation and knowledge exchange. From an Albertan standpoint, this report provides an indication of not only where we stand in relation to the other provinces, but the commonalities as well. Alberta has been fortunate (at different times) to be able to invest in rural development, but those investments are not always as targeted or as effective as might originally have been expected. Like in other provinces, Alberta’s rural communities face a number of challenges, and many are a result of previous decisions. We now need to decide how to move forward.”
“Despite the challenges, the situation is far from bleak,” said Al Lauzon, a professor at the University of Guelph and the president of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) which produced the report. “What we found is that there is tremendous rural resilience, diversity, and vibrancy in rural Canada. Yes, there are problems and challenges, but there are also opportunities and possibilities we need to recognize and support,” he said. “We have work to do, at all levels, if we want a sustainable future for rural Canada in the 21st century.”
The key findings of the report show that rural Canada is facing a mix of demographic, economic, and social challenges including an aging population and a need to provide new development opportunities for younger workers. However, the report also points out that rural Canada has proved itself to be highly innovative in terms of responding to the pressures of low-cost global competitors. With limited resources, but drawing on strong social ties, rural regions and local organizations are models of innovation, doing more with less and achieving positive impacts for their communities. Environmentally, rural regions are on the front line of such issues as sustainability, food security and balancing resource developments and economic diversification with the social and environmental impacts on their communities.
“There is a lot to learn from rural Canada. We are thrilled to partner with CRRF and hope that this is practical document will be useful to policy-makers who are seeking to better understand and engage with the rural regions and rural people upon which and whom our food, water, resources, energy, recreation, and ecosystem depend,” said Bill Reimer, sociologist at Concordia University, former CRRF president, report reviewer, and lead researcher on a seven-year partnership called Rural Policy Learning Commons – a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded international partnership focused on building better rural and northern policy.
For the complete list of recommendations and findings, you can find the executive summary and the full report at http://sorc.crrf.ca.
The Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (http://crrf.ca/) – established in 1989 to contribute to the revitalization and sustainability of rural Canada. CRRF works to create credible insights and to improve understanding of rural issues and opportunities.
To learn more about rural sustainability in Alberta, consider the upcoming RAIL seminar at Augustana Campus.
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