Almost a month ago now, MP Shannon Stubbs, shadow minister for Rural Economic Development and Rural Broadband, and myself, as the deputy shadow minister for Rural Economic Development and Rural Broadband, held a virtual townhall where we had the privilege of listening to the concerns of over 120 CAOs, mayors, councillors and other municipal officials from rural areas across the country. The input we received from these rural representatives provided us with great insight into the issues plaguing rural Canada, and ways on how to address them. And a message that rural concerns are similar across our nation.
Rural Canada is home to bustling industry, cutting edge innovation, and enormous economic opportunities that could fuel our nation’s future. Unfortunately, the success of rural areas is inhibited by an innumerable amount of bureaucratic red tape and the failure of government to listen to those who live and work outside urban areas. As an elected official who is ultimately accountable to my constituents, these issues are extremely troubling.
It’s not like rural issues are so complex that solutions cannot be found. Much of the burden facing rural communities pertains to the government’s hindrance on communities including a convoluted and time-consuming grant process where funds are not likely to be accessible. Ensuring municipalities can access a grant as advertised by the federal government is critical to creating infrastructure in rural areas, whether it’s a grant to build a sporting complex, or to make broadband available. In the longer term, infrastructure pays for itself in the form of increased tax revenue from the well-paying jobs it creates, increased economic activity in the area of the project, and in many cases, increased resources that bring people to live in said area. The greater access to resources an individual has, the greater chance people will want to live in that community.
Industry plays a large role in creating jobs in rural Canada. Energy, agriculture, and manufacturing are just some of the industries that conduct business in Battle River—Crowfoot. Rural residents understand that industry, and the business it cultivates, is the backbone of economic development. In a lot of areas, this development is facilitated by resources and commodities such as grain and oil and gas. To fully capitalize on this, corridors must exist and be expanded so we can transport goods across the country, or to ports where they can be shipped. Building pipelines, rail lines, and other modes of transport are sensical ways we can improve these rural-dominated industries. That said, these are not just methods used for transport, they help rural feed and fuel the rest of Canada.
Policy makers need to listen to those impacted and addressing their concerns with common-sense solutions is deeply important to Canada’s success. Even though rural may not have the votes, its impact cannot be understated.
Government is supposed to work for Canadians no matter where they live in the country. The contributions of rural areas are integral to the fabric of Canada’s economic and social infrastructure. It is time for government to end the policies and actions that have held back rural Canada.
In my role as the Member of Parliament for Battle River—Crowfoot, it is my duty to listen to the concerns of Canadians and work to address them. I enjoy taking part in events such as the Rural Townhall because it helps represent you better and address your concerns more directly.