Environment featured

Ray Bates: We must change our urban-versus-rural mindsets

SEDABOOKTOOK (Guysborough) – The regions in which Nova Scotians choose to live are mostly ours to decide, be it in an urban setting such as a town or city or, like me, in a rural area. Nova Scotia’s reality is that the majority of its population (60%) live in rural regions. To put that into perspective, according to Statistics Canada (2020), Nova Scotia has an overall population of approximately 979,351 thereby putting 587,611 in its rural parts.

Within Nova Scotia we have 49 municipalities with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) being my place of residence. Encompassing those 49 municipalities are 4 regional municipalities, 25 towns, 9 county municipalities and 11 district municipalities.

Between the Halifax Regional Municipality, population of 431,479 (2017) and the MODG having its residents numbering 4,670 (2016), you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know which region carries the biggest stick when it comes to exerting influence and projecting dominance over the remaining 48 municipalities.

Insert into the population numbers the varying influence that smaller regions have when they go up against more populated portions. Such an examination will readily reveal that the disparities between our province’s municipalities are directly influenced by the number (power) of voices from their members and their levels of taxation.

Two additional realities are that many rural areas are experiencing reductions within their populations and an aging issue amongst their residents who remain. Yes, we rural dwellers are 60% strong province-wide but as individual locales we are hurting and the pain is getting progressively worse.

This article does not have the space to delve into all of the ramifications of less residents therefore I ask you to consider a few: How will businesses survive, taxes be paid and justifications made for the services necessary for our overall well being?

One pie-in-the-sky idea being frequently put forth is that industrialization developments will solve many of our problems. I emphatically disagree with that proposal. Industrialization goes contrary to why people live in rural areas as well as forever changing the environment. The 60% of Nova Scotians who reside rurally do so because of the ways of life within those areas. I believe that the majority of Nova Scotians, and many others, appreciate all that non-industrialized regions have to offer and the many ecological benefits they provide.

My argument today is that with regional inequalities we must change our urban-versus-rural mindsets. Be it COVID-19, the out-migration of residents, our aging population, the destruction of natural habitats or the reduction in local amenities, Nova Scotia is undergoing a transition into new ways of living that are being accompanied by revised needs and required services.

The status quo is not the answer; we need “blue-sky” thinking. Nova Scotia prospers or suffers as a whole with each region mattering as much as another. The divide of “us against them” does not give positive outcomes; it instills hostilities that have long-term and negative consequences.

Because the world is rapidly changing in a multitude of ways, we and Nova Scotia must also adapt. “Our” (with emphasis on “Our”) province needs to examine its ways of governance so as to represent its entire populace. “Our” leaders must actively seek recommendations from citizens via sincere, practical and accessible methods to enable us to prepare for whatever the future places upon “our” province.

Ray Bates, Guysborough (Sedabooktook: harbour running far back), a former school principal and Nova Scotia Community College Truro Campus faculty member (Ret’d), has been contributing his opinions to newspapers since 1998. (raybates@eastlink.ca)

See also: Peter Puxley: If not mining, then what? Towards a sustainable and prosperous rural Nova Scotia

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