Yahoo Canada series on survival challenges to small Canadian towns. Extracts from one of the articles:
Canada’s small towns under siege
As populations in urban centres grow, what happens to our rural communities?
By Lindsay Jolivet | Yahoo Canada News – Mon, 30 Sep, 2013
Economic decline has siphoned more than 15 per cent of [Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s] population in the last 15 years. …Aging infrastructure and a looming unemployment rate of 18.6 per cent are only two of its many challenges.
…Rural depopulation isn’t new. Urbanization and the decline of natural resource-based industries like mining have led North Americans, particularly young people, to migrate out of their home towns in search of better opportunities and different lifestyles, with the effect of a handful of metropolitan areas in Canada growing while many other, smaller areas decline.
Fazley Siddiq, a professor at Dalhousie University…says that while Canada’s population has grown nationally, there are disparities between provinces, regions and towns. He sees a hollowing out in many of Canada’s small communities and he’s worried it could have devastating consequences.
For example, Siddiq found that between 1986 and 2010, the population of the town of Stikine, B.C. had a negative growth rate of 45 per cent while the growth rate in York, Ont., north of Toronto, was 186 per cent.
Cape Breton’s population declined at a rate of 17.11 per cent over that period.
“The clear trend we’re seeing is the larger cities – the metropolitan areas are growing, the non-metropolitan areas are not growing, and especially in Atlantic Canada – they are declining. …It’s a festering wound”, he says.
The issue has experts, politicians and community leaders divided. Some, such as economist Rose Olfert, suggest it’s best to let economic forces work untouched, even if it means losing some communities. …Olfert says the forces that draw Canadians out of small towns – including job prospects, nightlife and the variety of attractions cities offer – are powerful and they’re not easily slowed down, though they can create hardship.
“This lament for rural areas, it’s very real and genuine and emotional sometimes,” she says. “Because in that transition there are individuals that are caught.”
Siddiq’s concern is for those individuals, but it’s also one of time; as people choose cities like Toronto over smaller Canadian municipalities, they leave fewer residents to pay taxes and to support local business. And Siddiq says life could become much more difficult for those who stay, unless change comes soon.
“We need to, first of all, understand this is a very serious problem. That unless we address it, it will lead to a very serious collapse of real estate prices, collapse of local businesses,” he says.
“It has the potential to ruin the lives of hard working people, for no apparent fault on their part.”
…Siddiq says policymakers must act now to prevent long-term damage to the economy and the vulnerable individuals living in dwindling areas.
“We owe it to each other to do our best, to protect each other and to ensure that if certain communities are no longer viable that we do something about it,” Siddiq says.
So maybe it’s naive. Keep refugee money in Canada, and revitalize local communities through refugee resettlement, temporary or otherwise. Such as so many forced exiles from Syria, referenced here, here and here.