Bigger not necessarily better for rural P.E.I.

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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By Alan E. MacPhee (guest opinion)

Once again we suffer the prejudiced views of Don Mills or Corporate Research Associates Inc.. I was present at the Georgetown Conference when Mr. Mills made a similar pitch against rural areas and he expounded on his own rural youth and how rural communities were filled with alcoholism and hard times.  Mr. Mills was the only speaker that took the stage with the announcement that he would not entertain any questions – a cheap hit and run.

Later that night when I arrived at my shore front home and could see the lights at sea of the herring fishermen heading out to their hard and dangerous work, I wondered what they would think if they knew the perception that was being promoted of a rural lifestyle that the majority of Islanders live and the disdain for their economic contribution.

The P.E.I. Development plan wanted to support eight central communities but the federal government forced urbanization as a condition of funding. Mr. Mills advocates that the solution to Maritime Canada’s economic woes is to urbanize the region. This is a position that has been pushed upon us for 50 years by the federal government policy and supported by advocates such as Atlantic Provinces Economic Council and academics such as Donald Savoie.  

If change is really wanted then we need to change our thinking and we need to change the ‘leading thinkers’  —  a radical idea is to revitalize rural areas so that their economies can continue to subsidize the urban areas with rural taxes. We need strong cities, and strong cities need strong rural economies. Think Switzerland, think education, think technology.

 Mr. Mills ignores that rural areas live cheaply, and have less services, less municipal debt, less government economy, less government spending.  Want $250 000 to support marketing for rural lobster fishery – nope. Want $250 000 for an urban shellfish festival – no problem. Want $25,000 for a rural summer festival, nope. Want $30 million for a summer long free music festival – no problem.  Want money to pay for rural town snow removal - nope. Want money to help clear snow in the city, no problem. Seasonal work in rural areas is a problem, government pensions in urban areas is wonderful. Close rural hospital emergency room temporarily is OK, in the city, unthinkable; and on and on it goes.  

  Both urban and rural citizens want strong vibrant cities, however there is a class of people who want to blame rural communities as the reason for our current debt, Mr. Mills is among them. This class of people see the elimination of rural communities as the only way to perpetuate the party that is going on within the cities and they are dead wrong.  

Centralization thinking leads to Maritime Union and bigger is not necessarily better – Ontario’s debt situation is challenged? Is Maritime Union really the answer to P.E.I.’s future? What we need is a rebalanced, infused province with healthy and strong urban and rural communities. We need to grow the pie and a good start is a change in the tired old thinking and the tired old thinkers that have led us to our current unsustainable and difficult debts.

Alan E. MacPhee of Souris is Chairman,

Islandwide Health Access

Organizations: Corporate Research Associates, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, Maritime Union

Geographic location: P.E.I., Don Mills, Georgetown Switzerland Ontario

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