Angela Pollak (University of Western Ontario) spoke about the seeking and use of rural information. The concept of information poverty structured her study of how rural individuals access all types of formal and informal information. Perhaps not surprisingly, rural information is more informal with many different implications for how local decisions are made.
Terri MacDonald (Selkirk College, British Columbia) spoke about the support of the Columbia Basin Trust to the Rural Development Institute, Selkirk College to develop a multi-layered mapping tool at their Digital Basin Portal.
Brendan O’Keefe (University of Limerick) spoke about Ireland’s strategy for data for Irish sub-regions. Not surprisingly, it is most difficult to obtain data on whether public support of private firms has generated positive outcomes.
“How much farmland in Ontario has been converted to non-farm use?”
According to project results reported by Sara Epp, James Newlands and Wayne Caldwell of the University of Guelph,
“virtually no agricultural land has been rezoned to non-agricultural use”
A windshield survey (or aerial photographs) show when farmland is actually converted to non-farm use. However, the zoning change may have taken place decades earlier. These researchers documented when the zoning changes have taken place.
New Regionalism was the topic of sessions on the fourth day of the CRRF conference. Given the limited funds for multi-community collaboration in many provinces, a regional approach to development has moved to a “negotiation” among the communities on their own.
According to Kelly Vodden of Memorial University,
“the so-called “new regionalism” has arisen in response to the diminishing capacity of rural communities to provide the services requested by residents.”
Thus, communities are “negotiating” among themselves without (much) funding to support this work. These negotiations are important. I am reminded of the observation of Charles Conteh (2013)
“No one is able to do anything alone successfully anymore – things have become too complex and multi-faceted, and so they must be done in partnerships. (p. 196)”
Ms. Vodden noted that “identity” at the community level is, and remains, strong. Yet sometimes a “region” becomes the best way to proceed for service delivery or for multi-community development. If residents do not identify as members of a “region,” then it can be difficult to gain support among the residents of a group of communities to support regional proposals.
Quebec has a different landscape when it comes to regional identity. Bruno Jean (retired, Université du Québec à Rimouski) noted that regions in Quebec are well-known and understood within Quebec. In 1966, Quebec established 10 administrative regions, and there are now 17. In 1979, MRCs (a regional grouping of municipalities) were established with an original mandate to plan for rural and regional development. Later, MRCs received funding – – with additional funding based on the number of lagging communities within the MRC. Also, other regional structures for rural development were established. In a recent provincial budget for Quebec, rural funding was cut in half and this funding is now focused at the MRC level.
“Nevertheless, a regional identity and a regional approach remains stronger in Quebec than in most other provinces.”
 Conteh, Charles. (2013) Policy Governance in Multi-level Systems: Economic Development and Policy Implementation in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press).
Ray Bollman on site at CRRF conference – Days #3 and #4!!