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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Planning for an Uncertain Future

Recently the 2016 population figures have been released and although the overall population in Grey Bruce has increased by 1% to 3% some communities, including the City of Owen Sound have declined. Given that the details of age, work, income and such will not be available for some months I am not sure that we can read much into these initial figures in so far as our rural economic and social stability is concerned.

A number of municipalities are currently reviewing their “Official Plans” as is Grey County, this is perhaps a necessary exercise every so often but given that upper levels of government policy, in particular provincial government, have an enormous impact upon what lower levels can do to control their own destiny I wonder if its an exercise in futility. What particularly comes to mind at this time is the ongoing pressure to close and 'centralize' community schools thus gutting several small communities of one more local 'resource'. Both the residents and the municipalities themselves seem helpless to stop this process in spite of offering some very generous and innovative ways to improve the financial stability of said schools.

My own take upon efforts to stabilize the general decline in rural populations and financial viability of rural areas across Ontario and Canada, that I have previously labelled “The Forgotten Minority” in these pages, is to somehow provide stable employment. To be clear I have no clue as to how to accomplish that! It is clear that with larger and improved farm equipment that few jobs will be created 'down on the farm', perhaps part of the answer is value added farm products via local co-op enterprises. In 10 years or so perhaps the SWIFT internet initiative will enable tech and internet dependent company to locate in our area, but will they leave the big city for rural Ontario?

All of the above being said there are a couple of ways you can have your say regarding the 'plans' for our area. Firstly Grey County is reviewing the County Official Plan through a project called Recolour Grey. A group of University of Guelph Rural Planning and Development Master’s students are investigating age related issues in Grey County as part of the Official Plan review. They will hold small-scale community engagement sessions with both youth and older adults and outreach to community groups and key stakeholders to determine the needs of Grey County residents.
Further information and a short questionnaire of your views can bee found at https://www.grey.ca/news/age-friendly-communities-survey

In Chatsworth Township a meeting for a round table discussion with the Community to discuss their Strategic Plan has been scheduled for February 22, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the hall at the Garafraxa Hill Funeral Home located at the Corner of McNab St and Garafraxa St in Chatsworth.  At the time of writing few details about this meeting are available but we must assume that citizens will be given an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas about the future of out township with municipal staff and councillors. Check the Township website over the next week for further information.

I do hope a few citizens take the time to give input to what goes into these 'Plans' and that some positive and innovative ideas are identified and adopted to help maintain our rural communities as a viable place to live and work.
Readers who attend are invited to submit a synopsis of the issues discussed to the Rural Canadian in the comment section or for publication via email

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