© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Don Mills, chairman and CEO of Corporate Research Associates of Hlifax, N.S. speaks Friday to the Georgetown Conference.
When it comes to revitalizing rural communities, a Nova Scotia pollster thinks urban areas need to be part of the solution.
Don Mills, president of Corporate Research Associates, said the region's economic strategy is all over the place and hasn't led to much success.
"Our economic strategy has sucked," he said.
Mills was one of the presenters at the Georgetown Conference where he brought polling research with him to show what people in Atlantic Canada think of some of the issues facing rural communities.
One of the issues Mills discussed was what he said has been a systemic dependency on seasonal employment and while he heard someone say it's good for Atlantic Canada, that's not a statement he agrees with.
"We cannot perform as the rest of the country's economy if we have a lot of dependence on part-time jobs," he said.
In reviewing the statistics he presented at the conference, Mills said Atlantic Canada is last in population growth, which means it's the least attractive place to live in the country.
Mills said people make the argument that the quality of life is better in Atlantic Canada.
"That's bogus," he said.
To help improve the region's economy, Mills proposed an urban centred economic strategy to support rural areas.
Mills said that means communities with a population of more than 5,000 people would be considered urban and not just cities.
There are seven towns in Nova Scotia that would fit that description and Mills suggested focusing on those economic zones that would support everyone living in the rural areas around them.
Mills said services could be centralized to deliver a higher quality without people having to move.
"This is not about relocation. This is about serving and supporting those communities," he said.
That will require a change in attitude to consider those places urban communities, he said.
"That's a different way of thinking."
Some of those ideas weren't well received by everyone at the conference and during another session Souris Mayor David MacDonald rose to voice his disagreement about employment insurance.
Mills told the crowd he had never been on employment insurance, but MacDonald said he wasn't a typical Maritimer in that respect.
MacDonald said some people can't make enough money to survive without employment insurance.
"I would suggest that we still need our unemployment insurance in P.E.I., particularly in a rural area," he said.