A professor at the University of Saskatchewan calls it an urban versus rural divide. Ken Coates is the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation and says revitalization of rural Canada needs to be creative, we need to be more positive and optimistic but the future isn’t something you allow to happen to you, it is something you have to control. He says you will wait forever if you want a government to come back to you with a program.
About five years ago the number of people living in rural areas declined below the number of people living in urban areas and for the first time in human history Professor Coates says we have become more urban than rural.
He says those in rural Canada have been left the impression they have been forgotten by the public at large, the provincial government and particularly the federal government unlike countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland which have made a national commitment to revitalization and stability of small towns and rural areas. They do that with consistent government services and technological infrastructure for everyone, through initiatives, for instance, such as super high speed internet that is as available in rural, sparsely populated regions as they are in urban high density centres.
He also cited Ontario as an example innovation and creativity where they are seeing a fairly substantial movement of seniors into smaller towns. He says they can’t afford the cost of a seniors complex in the Greater Toronto Area, so they move to outlying areas that aren’t as expensive and those extra 300 to 400 people are a real source of revitalization.
“We need to look at those places that are doing well, to sustain and support them. We need to look at providing certain guarantees of infrastructure and government services across Canada. We can’t be so efficiency driven that we start closing down schools at the earliest opportunity because the numbers drop below a certain threshold.”
Coates says we need to think hard about what can be done to convince new Canadians to move into these rural areas and small towns but also for people living in cities who can’t afford Vancouver and can’t afford Toronto.