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.