When ‘rural’ means only 14% of your population like it does in Ontario, looking at rural development is a relatively small scale issue (not to downplay its importance) but when it is 47% of your population as in New Brunswick, it is a fundamental issue. It has preoccupied my thinking for some time now and my thoughts have been evolving. I now believe that a key to successful rural and small town development is proximity to a larger urban centre. I’ll have some more to say about this in my column this week in the TJ.
In the meantime, another important thing we need to start doing is thinking about rural and northern New Brunswick again through the lense of economic development. There are lots of voices calling for more EI, save our hospitals, save our ferries, fill our potholes, broadband, etc. but there is less thinking – serious thinking – about a successful economic development model – particularly for Northern New Brunswick. I think the rural and small communities that are within the orbit of Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton are a different story and need to be looked at in the context of sustaining urban/rural linkages.