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.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Comprehensive Vision Needed for Rural Ontario

This CFFO Commentary sums it up quite well, but who is going to form that "comprehensive team" and will any one with the power to implement change take any notice?

There are many factors that influence the shape of the countryside, but it seems that they often work at cross purposes. Provincial ministries, municipalities, and interest groups are all so busy pursuing their mandates that they end up battling each other. Is it possible that a comprehensive vision for rural Ontario would help reduce these clashes? Is it time to consider the value of having a comprehensive team establish a vision for rural Ontario?

There are many government ministries at work in rural Ontario. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is working to provide opportunities for farmers and rural residents. The Ministry of the Environment is busy developing rules and regulations to protect our air, water, and soil resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources is safeguarding our forests and repopulating or controlling wildlife populations in the province. While there is communication between these departments, they continue to serve their own agendas, which is arguably the proper course of action as things currently stand.

Then there are the interest groups that are vying for influence with government and its different agencies. Farm groups advocate for a variety of benefits for farmers, from tax breaks to easing regulations. Some environmental groups push for firmer rules to protect water, air and wildlife while others push for reforestation and naturalization projects.

Then there are municipalities that need to find ways to provide infrastructure and services to rural residents. This growing burden creates the need for new sources of property tax revenue. Ensuring that rural schools and hospitals remain available to rural residents, attracting employment opportunities and providing the latest in communication technology highlight today’s municipal responsibilities.

All of these goals and objectives have merit to varying degrees, but where is the vision that balances these goals and works to create a thriving rural Ontario? Are we ensuring that infrastructure needs are being met? Have we considered the best way to balance increasing wildlife and forestation with a profitable agriculture industry? Have we considered the need to improve transportation and water infrastructure so that agriculture is competitive in a global marketplace, while doing so in an environmentally responsible manner?

All of these conflicting agendas point toward the lack of a cohesive vision for rural Ontario. If rural Ontario is to thrive there needs to be a bridging of the different ministries, interest groups, and municipalities to generate a comprehensive vision that balances these interests to make rural Ontario a thriving and important part of the province.

Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy.


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