A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Response to the Beyond Freefall Report. (part 3)

Part 1 and Part 2 of my response to the response were largely negative, in this final post on this I will try and find some positive things to say about the governments various programs and funding outlines contained in this document as difficult as that may be.

Throughout this response the government makes repeated references to The Rural Secretariat and almost all of the new initiatives are “coordinated by” that small department within the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food. It is my understanding that this department does not deliver or manage any programs themselves but is “responsible for developing partnerships with federal, provincial, territorial and rural stakeholders” and “works with government departments & agencies …. to explore mechanisms to … coordinate federal government programs….”

There are two point here, firstly you can only “coordinate” programs that exist or are being developed and such programs specifically aimed at rural Canada seem to be in short supply.

Secondly the senates recommendation that the “Government create a new Department of Rural Affairs which would assume and expand on the responsibilities currently assigned to the Rural Secretariat.” Was met with this statement:-
“The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was assigned specific responsibility for coordinating rural development and enhancing the quality of rural life.”

In other words NO new Department of Rural Affairs, its all up the Minister! It then goes on to basically say that the Minister is “supported by” the Rural Secretariat, nothing specific is said about recommendations “that all memoranda to Cabinet include the Rural Secretariat’s analysis of the policy or program’s likely impact on rural Canada”

The Secretariat did however get “$45.6 million over four years ….. to continue its work”.

The Senates recommendation that the “government provide stable, long-term
funding to the Co-operatives Secretariat and the Co-operative Development Initiative.” Seems to have been met with some success in that “funding for CDI had been renewed and enhanced through to March 31, 2013 with a $19.1 million investment” It should be noted however that the Co-op’s supported by this initiative include housing co-ops (CDI has supported a number of co-operative housing projects over the years) and that the “Agricultural component of CDI, put in place in 2006” provided support to (only about) “60 new and emerging value-added agricultural co-ops” of the over 1500 co-op projects supported since 2003.

This in my view is one area that has enormous potential for the rural communities to enhance their economy and sustainability. Local co-ops processing local goods and employing local residents should be strongly encouraged and supported by all levels of government.
The senate specifically addressed rural TRANSPORTATION infrastructure and recommended that the “federal government should study how to coordinate existing rural transportation services into a flexible network …… and provide extra transportation services to rural citizens. The Governments response largely referred to generalized infrastructure funds available to municipalities across Canada including the “Building Canada Plan” the “GTF” (Gas Tax Fund). Nothing was said specifically about rural transportation issues or funding.

This funding to municipalities is indeed one of the better things coming out of this government and no doubt each municipality will use it as they see fit to benefit the “infrastructure” in their community. There is however a BIG gap in transportation infrastructure left by these programs and that is transportation outside of, and between, small towns and cities across Canada. Many of those in rural Canada have recently lost what for many was the ONLY means other than by private vehicle to travel to the nearest large urban area where all the services are increasingly being “centralized”.

The inter city (Greyhound and others) bus service may well need to be subsidized to keep running in some areas and given the recent initiatives by many larger communities to “get people out of their cars and on to public transportation” one would think that both Federal and Provincial governments would do so. In that such services cross municipal boundaries it is all but impossible for such support to come from individual municipalities, that previous governments allowed the sell off of our rail corridors now seems like a lost opportunity for modern intercity links.

There is lots more but I said in the last post that I would keep it short so I will make no further specific comments but will say that although I was very impressed with the Senate report I was singularly unimpressed with the governments response to it. It appears to me to be largely a document promoting existing programs (some going back 5 or more years), the 2009 budget of which so much was temporary “stimulus” and the contention that many of these issues are “not their problem” and should be addressed by other levels of government. I can see little new or good coming out of this response!

At last check a copy of this report still cannot be found on either the Parlimentry site or the Rural Secretariat site (it appears their efforts to make a text available there are being frustrated) it can however be found at Govresponse_ruralpov_eng_final.pdf

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