As most of you know the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation/Fondation canadienne pour la revitalization rurale (CRRF/FCRR) was founded in 1989 and operates with a mandate to explore and communicate the potential and enhance the vitality of rural Canada. As the site of food production, resource extraction, energy generation, clean water and air, and of increasing importance for carbon sequestration, rural Canada contributes significantly to economic activity, job creation, environmental stewardship, as well as social and cultural production across our country.
As leaders in rural advocacy in Canada, we invited all federal leadership candidates from the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party to share their views about how the federal government, under their leadership, can best support rural Canada. Candidates were invited to respond to the following five questions and were notified that their responses would be shared with the CRRF/FCRR network.
- What are the three most prominent opportunities you see for rural Canada?
- How will your government help rural Canada take advantage of these three opportunities?
- What are the three most important challenges facing rural Canada?
- What would your government do to help rural Canada meet these three challenges?
- If there is one thing you would like to say to Canada’s rural people, what would it be?
We had hoped each candidate would take the time to answer these five questions, however in the course of the month provided we received responses from only two candidates: Kevin O’Leary (who has since left the leadership race) and Chris Alexander (see tables below). CRRF/FCRR is disappointed with these results and the seeming lack of regard shown for rural Canada by the leadership candidates for two federal political parties. While it is true rural Canada has been declining as a percentage of the overall population, it is still populated by over 6,500,000 people and is responsible for approximately 50% of the country’s exports. Can the interests and needs of this many citizens and their economic contributions to the Canadian economy be ignored? Given the lack of response from potential leaders of this country, one could infer that rural Canada can be ignored. This lack of response appears to demonstrate that these potential leaders not have a vision for rural Canadians and the future of rural economies. How sad for the rural people of Canada.
Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Candidates
New Democratic Party Leadership Candidates
We would like to thank Kevin O’Leary and Chris Alexander for responding to our questions. We are most appreciative of the time they took and their efforts to provide thoughtful responses that we can share with rural Canadians. CRRF/FCRR does not endorse any particular party or leadership candidate. Our goal was to simply help rural Canadians understand what the potential federal leaders of Canada envisioned for rural Canada.
Below you will find Chris Alexander’s correspondence and responses to our questions. We have not included Kevin O’Leary’s responses as he is no longer a leadership candidate. Below is the list of candidates and whether they responded to our requests, as well as the contact information for each candidate can be found on the CRRF/FCRR website:
Questions or comments on the responses received from federal candidates can be sent via email to Al Lauzon.
Responses from Chris Alexander
Dear Dr. Breen,
Chris Alexander has a vision for a “New Canada” that is outlined in the Policy section of his website www.chrisalexander.ca
. Before I answer the survey questions I have pulled out a variety of action items from his 22 published policies and inserted them below so that you can get an idea of where he wants to take this country and how it could impact rural Canada. These are all from various different policies.
- seek strategic agri-food partnerships with all major Asian and European markets;
- together with all relevant Canadian stakeholders, align Canadian effort and investment with long-term growth prospects for Canadian exports in agri-food, energy, natural resources, engineering and infrastructure, professional services, finance, information and communications technology, deep tech, robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing;
- open the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programme to include meat-cutting/packing, seafood processing facilities and seasonal tourism businesses, when Canadians are not available to do the job;
- assign a primary care doctor (a General Practitioner, or Family Doctor) to each First Nations, Métis, Inuit or Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member, while establishing comprehensive digital health records;
- strengthen Canada’s reputation for environmental protection in all fields;
- raise federal standards for air and water pollution, and wastewater treatment;
- protect 20% of Canada’s total land and freshwater areas, including in unique or sensitive watersheds;
- scale up and promote sustainable wilderness experience business models for Canadian and international visitors;
- champion reforestation in Canada and throughout the world; increase the intensity of private sector research and development, commercialization, startup, incubator, accelerator, growth phase, venture capital and IPO activity for the following sectors and projects: clean tech, solar, zero emissions (including driverless) vehicles, carbon capture and storage (including ag soil sequestering), power transmission, pipeline, home and commercial conservation, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy generation;
- build pipelines, port facilities and other infrastructure to support the success of Canada’s energy, mining and metals, agri-food, forest and fisheries sectors;
Responses: 1. What are the three most prominent opportunities you see for rural Canada?
- Utilize our vast and diverse array of natural resources to produce jobs and prosperity in existing industries such as mining and forestry, and to establish and promote new business models such as wilderness and eco-tourism, and clean energy;
- Improve digital communications and Internet access throughout rural Canada to make rural living and working a viable option for more people, particularly younger employable Canadians.
- Leverage private sector investment, research, technology, and partnerships with academia and government agencies to improve agricultural production and the infrastructure necessary to get greater quantities of agri-food to markets at home and abroad.
2. How will your government help rural Canada take advantage of the three opportunities?
- By protecting the culture, interests and institutions of rural Canada while seeking innovative methods to improve upon already existing business models in rural Canada. Research, consultation with local residents and First Nations peoples, public/private sector development partnerships that include participation of local residents and First Nations people
- By fashioning a government with Cabinet leadership to focus policy and coordinate resource efforts in the relevant portfolios of Agriculture, Forestry and Mines, Natural Resources, Indigenous Affairs, Tourism, Northern Affairs, Parks and Infrastructure.
- Improve air, sea and land transportation, communications and energy infrastructure for rural and northern Canada. Promote rural Canada as a destination for quality living and investment. As stated in my policies I would have a 6-month tax deduction of rent for Canadians moving between provinces in search of employment. This would directly support job seekers relocating to rural Canada.
3. What are the three most important challenges facing rural Canada?
- Reversing the flow of youth from rural Canada to urban centres. Youth absent from rural Canada during their most productive years of employment
- Health care costs associated to higher proportions of senior residents in rural communities – inability of local rural municipalities to raise taxes to cover social services (like health)
- Ensuring a sustainable, locally-produced food supply for Canada, in a way that also supports family farms instead of only favouring large agri-corporations
- Maintaining environmental integrity, sustainability and quality – land, water, and air.
Sorry- couldn’t narrow it down to just three!
4. What would your government do to help rural Canada meet these three challenges?
Many of my ideas are outlined in my policies, some of which are described above.
Canada is today the world’s 5th largest agricultural exporter, and our Party has always championed farmers & food. We gave western grain farmers marketing freedom. We secured market access in the US, Latin America, Europe & Asia. China & India buy Canadian because of quality. Lower taxes, research, marketing & exports will keep our farms strong. Supply management for dairy and poultry is part of this strategy. Only our Party can give New Canada the agriculture we deserve.
My government in particular would work together with farmers and with all those in rural communities (including First Nations and Métis) to ensure their needs are treated as seriously as those of any other Canadians. Creating incentives and excitement for living or staying in rural areas, improving social services and digital access, investing in new and sustainable technologies and protecting our environment will all help us meet these challenges.
5. If there is one thing you would like to say to Canada’s rural people, what would it be?
We are your natural Party — and we need to work together to make Canada’s rural communities, rural economy and boundless natural assets stronger than ever. I’m in favour of protecting more water and wilderness areas. I want to ensure our wildlife, forests and watersheds remain clean and flourishing for posterity. I want our rural economy to boom — on the basis of outstanding agriculture, excellence in resource development and the new digital economy, which means great businesses and talented workers can emerge and be based just about anywhere. Canada has the world’s longest coastlines, second largest forests and land territory, and most freshwater. We also have the most liveable, attractive and successful rural communities in the world. Let’s work together to make them stronger than ever!