The charming community of Clare, NS

I have the opportunity to work with Clare on a new economic development effort.  It’s a very interesting community – a number of vibrant industries and a dynamic cultural and linguistic context.  But it is suffering from the challenges facing rural communities across Atlantic Canada (and much of the rest of Canada too).

Urbanization in Atlantic Canada is a reality and necessary.    I have argued this and continue to belief that much of the region’s economic malaise can be traced to a lack of urbanity here.  However that urban growth doesn’t mean the end of rural Atlantic Canada.  There are many industries that are rurally-based and as I have found out – not everyone wants to live in an urban setting.

At the core, however; rural communities need to have a solid economic foundation.  It’s not about rapid population growth but it is about alignment between the labour market, the local economy and the scope and scale of expected public services.  When those three are out of alignment it can lead to a lot of problems.

Some of my urban advocate colleagues don’t have a lot of interest in rural development but I see communities such as Clare and see something worth saving – something that local stakeholders will fight for.  It’s not about hanging on to the past.  The Clare of 2040 will be a lot different than now – probably a lot more immigrants for one – but it should be able to retain the charm and cultural attributes that people really appreciate.

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3 Responses to The charming community of Clare, NS

  1. Paul says:

    “It’s not about rapid population growth but it is about alignment between the labour market, the local economy and the scope and scale of expected public services. When those three are out of alignment it can lead to a lot of problems.”

    I wonder if you see these things out of alignment in Clare particularly or in rural Atlantic Canada generally? Is Clare’s expectations too high and if so, where do their expectations not meet ability to provide publis services?

    As a rural NBer’ I would like to know where I should set my expectations?

  2. I can’t talk specifically about Clare because I would be in a conflict of interest but in general I think we probably haven’t thought enough about this alignment. The biggest challenge we have is that there are not many jurisdictions in a similar place as NB – high rural population but +/-97% of NBers living within an hour of an urban centre. I think the linkages between rural and urban areas become more important in that context.

    NB is a relatively small province – geographically speaking – compared to AB, SK, QC, ONT, BC, MB and NL. That’s another piece of context.

    In the end I suspect there will be more urbanization of services – banking, etc. and probably public services as well but in the area of health care I suspect there will be eventually a significant move towards home-based care with remote monitoring. Schools are tricky. Already places like Blackville with thousands of people living in the catchment area have moved to a single school from Grade 1 to 12. I’d like to see immigration into smaller towns and rural areas (aligned with economic opportunity) to help rejuvinate rural populations.

    But I stick to my main line that we can’t have 30k people living in an area where the economy only supports 20k. We either need to address the 30 or the 20.

  3. Paul says:

    I once did a count of the businesses in my little LSD. There were 25. None of them were on any economic developer’s radar as far as I could tell. And I was, for a time, close enough to know. Neither were those small businesses out looking for any help, so I have always felt that even if two or three of those entrepreneurs were inspired to grow with the same zeal industrial and other SME’s were encouraged by the ED community, there would be more success. I did witness one in particular expand a business, generating good employment at good pay, and eventually selling to a bigger player.

    I also think some sort of marketing cooperative for tourist related business, which may not be annual income, but form part of an annual income. It happens now, only some of it is underground, as they use EI as part of that annual income stream and work under the table. (By the way, its often the wealthiest buyers who take advantage of this cash environment. So this EI thing is hardly limited to those who draw it)

    As for schools, I believe the research says that smaller schools perform better than larger schools. It seems counter intuitive to me to close better performing schools to increase the size and “efficiency” of large schools in the system. I am not sure if we are better off in the end. I’d say, keep elementary schools close to their community of interest, and in Grade 6 they are ready to move on to larger schools. Although your Blackville example is also a acceptable alternative, in my opinion. Proximity to schools is a factor in populating our province.

    And the issue with the 30K people in an economy that supports 20K is the most productive 10K are the ones that are leaving.

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