FCM Calls for Strong Rural Voice

OTTAWA, May 26, 2009 - Rural Canada needs a champion at the federal cabinet table and a long-term plan from the federal government to reverse the decline in its struggling towns and villages.

That was the message today from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) as it released its report, Wake-Up Call: The National Vision and Voice We Need for Rural Canada, at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

“Rural Canada is fighting for its future,” said FCM First Vice-president Basil Stewart, mayor of Summerside, P.E.I. “Industries rooted in rural regions produce over 50 per cent of Canada´s exports, but a lot of rural Canada is missing out on the growth and prosperity that it does so much to create.”

Stewart added, “If Canada is going to emerge from the global economic crisis ready for the future, then it needs a sustained commitment to rural communities and a new champion to keep rural issues on the agenda in Ottawa.”

The report, launched by FCM´s Rural Forum and developed with contributions by Dr. Donald J. Savoie of the Université de Moncton and Dr. Bill Reimer of Concordia University, shines a light on the growing crisis in rural Canada and its implications for the national economy. It asks what role the federal government should play in rural communities and provides a road map for effective action in Ottawa.

The recent global economic collapse has exacerbated long-term trends in rural Canada. The 2006 Census showed that rural Canada´s share of the national population fell below 20 per cent for the first time in history, and rural communities are attracting less than five per cent of the country´s new immigrants. Compared to the rest of the country, household incomes in rural Canada are lower than average, life spans are shorter, and chronic poverty is more common. With shrinking property tax bases, rural communities are struggling to provide the basic infrastructure and services they need to attract and retain new residents and businesses.

“Rural Canada is well-represented in the House of Commons and individual federal policies and programs deliver clear benefits. But the Government of Canada has struggled to turn individual policies into a comprehensive plan that it can implement over time and across federal departments. The government´s Rural Secretariat is one tool to help fix those problems, but it needs more resources and more pull at the cabinet table,” said Stewart.

“Today we are calling on all parties in the House of Commons to commit to protecting and expanding federal investments in rural communities; to appointing a rural champion within the federal cabinet; to working with other orders of government to build a long-term plan—with long-term funding—for the future of rural Canada; and to provide adequate resources and political support for the Rural Secretariat.”

Stewart added, “Rural Canada is fighting for its future. It´s a fight that should matter to all Canadians. With vision and leadership, the actions outlined in today´s report can help rural Canada succeed, and lay the foundation for strong and prosperous communities in a strong and prosperous Canada.”

About the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM):

FCM is the national voice of municipal governments, established in 1901, representing the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. With more than 1,775 members representing 90 per cent of Canadians, FCM members include Canada's largest cities, small urban and rural communities, and 18 provincial and territorial municipal associations.

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For further information or to arrange interviews, Maurice Gingues, (613) 907-6395, mgingues@fcm.ca

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