Monica Taylor – 4522884
Prof. Michele Stairs
Nov 26, 2012
Rural Regions: Poverty in Ontario, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada
Canada’s strength, Robert M. Bone writes is “its regional diversity and ensuing political struggle to balance regional interests with national ones” (Bone 444). The uniqueness of Canada’s six geographic regions; Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Western Canada, Atlantic Canada and the Territorial North provide geographers with an opportunity to assess how issues related to geographical themes remain similar or change across the nation in different regions. This paper will be defining and analyzing issues of poverty in rural regions in Canada focusing on three specific political regions of; Ontario, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. It is best to start with defining rural regions which defined by Statistics Canada is “all of those places located outside of Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) and a Census Agglomeration (CA) territories (a CMA has an urban core population of 100,000 and over and a CA has an urban core population of 10,000 to 99,999; each include all neighboring municipalities where 50 percent or more of the workforce commutes to the urban core)” (Burns et al, iv).
The recession in Canada in the 90’s grew the number of poor people from 16.2% to 19.7% and since then the poverty gap has been widening and the number of poor Canadians increased by 10.1% from 4.3 million to 4.7 million (Canadian Council 2). What is interesting to
see is how this increase in the poor populations in Canada has been affecting the rural regions the most versus the urban centers such as Toronto and Vancouver. Poverty is more difficult to manage in rural areas as accesses to resources are diminished or nonexistent. Research provided in the paper Poverty and Social Exclusion in Rural Areas address problems of rural areas and the risk of poverty in these regions. Two phenomena, they write, in western culture is effecting the populations and increases of poverty in rural regions. The first is urbanization, which is “the trend of drawing population out of remote rural areas and into urban and accessible rural areas” (European Commission 8) and counter-urbanization which is “the flow out of urban areas and into accessible rural areas” (European Commission 8). This paper is seeking to explore three political regions to see how rural regions are experiencing poverty in relatively similar ways (health care, child care and job loss) and at the end of the paper insight will be provided through governmental policies on the present and future attempts to fix the problems of poverty in these unique areas.
A common concern with rural regions, especially in Ontario, is how geography makes it hard for these regions to have access to services; public transportation, homeless shelters or soup kitchens. The physical space that separates rural regions from large urban centers forces the labor market in these areas to consist of low paying / minimum wage jobs. Those who can are living in rural areas and commuting to urban centers where there is better work. An example from rural Dufferin County are struggling to have their municipality create and control the policies for workers that live and work in the area with low paying jobs. There are unfair and unreasonable bylaws that the rapidly decreasing population of farmers are struggling to engage with. These farmers are being imposed upon by urban laws. “We don’t need that hassle” one Dufferin
County Farmer writes to the local paper “so we sell out to a housing developer or quarry operator and save ourselves a lot of labor, poverty and pain. Farm families will probably disappear from Ontario in a quarter century” (Hooker). The rural stereotype as the article On The RISE defines as “the good life, characterized by close-knit communities, strong churches, healthy families and the abundance of good, home-grown food” (Sinkowski & Landon 14) This is not the case in many rural communities any more in Ontario as the threat of poverty looms over families who are struggling to make it work. Expenses are rising, especially because of the little to no choice in many mandatory services such as child care and health care. The one place you can get health care may be too expensive for your family, but you need to pay for it anyway. If that same family was living in the city, more options would be available.
Day care services for rural areas around Ottawa have taken a hit lately as $250 000 was pulled out of a $750 000 budget for improvements to subsidize daycare centers (Reevely). This is a local example of how governmental choices in political regions and across Canada affect rural regions in ways they may not see as a big deal but in fact are. In the article On The RISE, the authors speaks of how the government promised poverty would get better “many people focused their own hard work and the promised tax cuts, and resigned themselves to the actions of the government as we lost more and more of our welfare state” (Sinkowski & Landon 14).
Shifting our attention east to Atlantic Canada with an example from the article “A House with Two Families”; many families who live in poverty struggle with the dilemma of having food, heat or rent. The article focuses on the cost that poverty imposes on society, especially rural societies. “Poverty stops out economy from growing and dealing with it would be a huge economic and social lift. Poverty holds us back and robs our children of opportunity” (A House
With Two Families). So what is the government doing about this problem which affects many people in rural communities in Eastern Canada? Former premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham’s recent speech to the liberal Party of New Brunswick suggested that job creation is the best way to combat poverty in rural communities. He continued to exemplify the Ocean Spray Corporation in Rogersville, investment in the $2 million potash mine in Sussex and support for home grown success stories like Barrett Explore (Xplornet Communications Inc) (Graham). He proudly announced that “15 000 new jobs were created even in the midst of the worst recession in a generation” (Graham). This speaks to the “social assistance reform” put in place by the provincial government as a two-tiered system that has “provided assistance to individuals with longer-term needs and those not considered employable, while municipalities provided assistance for people considered able-bodies and ready for work” (Saulnier 20).
But is this enough to sustain Atlantic Canada and keep rural regions from increasing levels of poverty? What makes Atlantic Canada as a political region unique is the geographical closeness that these rural communities have with each other. In the case of Ontario with its vast landscape and long distances between many communities, Atlantic Canada can share resources between small towns such as health care services. As in Ontario, the complex issues of expensive and inaccessible health care options are experienced in Nova Scotia. A large portion of homeless people are people with mental illness and addiction. Most service providers interviewed for the Poverty Reduction Policies and Programs paper indicated that there was inadequate access to mental health professionals citing long waiting lists, lack of beds and lack of information for clients (Saulnier 14). It is clear in Atlantic Canada that similar issues of the vicious cycle of not
enough money for services and resources and the lack of affordable services and resources lead to increased poverty are seen across the country as well in other political regions.
On the west coast in British Columbia similar issues relating to poverty are seen in rural regions. The paper Economy, community and mortality in British Columbia, Canada explores 24 coastal rural communities to see the link between health and wealth. These communities represent the communities of the ‘Toward a Healthy British Columbia’ project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; “a project that seeks to understand the social and economic determinants of health in non-urban, purportedly resource industry setting” (Veenstra 1810). Wealthier communities are proved in the paper to have over all healthier citizens and wealth influences health relevant attributes of communities such as; the nature of government policies, the quality of health care, pollution and environmental hazards, criminal activity, the nature of the distribution of wealth, the efficiency of transportation systems, safety in workplaces, social capital or cohesion and structured social inequalities, for example (Veenstra 1808). Let us examine this recurring theme of poverty and its relation to health care with an example from the media article “Better, cheaper health care”. An attempt to decrease health concerns and in turn decrease the amount rural citizens are spending on health care was made by allowing pharmacists to give flu shots. In 2012, 50 percent of the British Columbia rural population received a flu shot in comparison to Ontario’s 33 percent (Better cheaper health care). Keeping the cost of going to see a professional for flu shots keeps the threat of a more serious and expensive health concern down for those who are unable to travel to cheap health care options is important for rural citizens.
British Columbia, like Ontario and Atlantic Canada struggles with the cost of day care services and lack of available and affordable services. “Average child care costs in B.C. range from $9000 to $14 000; a person working 37.5 hours per week at minimum wage earns about $20 000 a year” (Woo 1). Like this papers examination of Atlantic Canada and Ontario, many if not most rural jobs are minimum wage which provides a shocking description of how child care can send families into poverty. As a solution to this problem, a suggestion for the future to assist these families is to implement universal child care: “charging $10 a day for full time care, $7 a day for part time care and nothing for families that make less than $40 000” (Woo 1). Although this would help dramatically there are many other financial areas that burden rural residents and increase the looming threat of poverty.
Although the three political regions explored in this paper are geographically very different and spatially distant from each other the issues that surround rural areas in these regions are very similar. Using media articles from 2012 a current view on the intimate struggles these small communities have with job creation, child care and health care have led to a deeper understanding of what creates poverty in these regions and what sustains it. Looking into the future smaller rural communities can look to creative energies and innovation reflected in the article Let’s reflect on our strengths that are not only applicable to areas such as information-technology “but can be employed to keep traditional sectors like agriculture and forestry vibrant in the 21st century. Tourism and eco-tourism can provide a boost to our rural areas and small towns, given the advantages of our scenic natural vistas and welcoming small communities” (Let’s reflect).
Putting rural Canada back on the policy agenda for the federal government is the next step of reducing poverty and increasing options available for rural communities struggling with poverty and attempting to reduce it. The standing senate committee on agriculture and forestry is urging the federal government to “adopt a series of explicit and precise initiatives to that a generation from now, rural Canada is a ‘place’ where, as a whole, population decline (in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total Canadian population) has been halted if not reversed and where, on a range of socio-economic indicators – health status, educational attainment, and per capita income, rural Canada has closed the gap with urban Canadians” (Beyond Freefall x). Although poverty is a concern in rural communities across Canada, this should not deter citizens from visiting and residing in these areas. There are many wonderful attractions to life in rural communities versus living in an urban one. Further education about the benefits of rural living may increase the amount of wealthy residents who want to reside in a rural area and commute to an urban setting job which will stimulate economy in these small towns. Policies and committee plans are already beginning to identify and resolve poverty issues in unique rural areas across Canada and rural living can become just as comfortable and desirable for those of a lower socio-economic status as living in a convenient urban region.
“A house with two families”. Telegraph – Journal [Saint John, NB] 14 Nov. 2012:A.6. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
“Better, cheaper health care”. The Ottawa Citizen [Ottawa, Ont] 17 Oct, 2012: A:12. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
Bone, R. The Regional Geography of Canada (Fifth Edition). Oxford University Press: Don Mills, 2010. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Burns, Ausra, David Bruce, and Amanda Marlin. “Rural Povery Discussion Paper.” Rural Secretariat Canada (2007): 1-75. Print. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty. Final Report. 39th Parl., 2nd sess., June. 2008. Parliament of Canada. Web. Nov 24. 2012. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Canadian Council on Social Development. “Poverty by Geography: Urban Poverty in Canada” Urban Poverty Project 2007 (2000): 1-36. Print. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
European Commission. Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.. Unit E.2., Poverty and Social Exclusion in Rural Areas. European Communities: 2008. Print. 1 – 187. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Graham, Shawn. “The challenge of leadership”. Telegraph – Journal [Saint John, NB] 27 Oct. 2012:A.15. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
Hooker, Charles. “The diminishing role of farmers”. The National Post [Don Mills, Ont] 23 Oct. 2012: A.15. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
“Let’s reflect on our strengths”. Telegraph – Journal [ Saint John NB] 06 Aug, 2012:A.5. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 17 Nov 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
Reevely, David. “Council offers just a little to neediest citizens; $250, 000 taken from daycare to help offset $7M provincial cut.” The Ottawa Citizen [Ottawa, Ont] 16 Nov. 2012: C.3. Canadian Newstand. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)
Saulnier, Christine. “Poverty Reduction Policies and Programs”. Social Development Report Series (2009): 1 – 37. Print. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Sinkowski, Carrie. & Landon, Sally. “On the RISE : Two Ontario women take a close look at the often well-hidden face of rural poverty”. Briarpatch (Dec 2003 / Jan 2004): 14-16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Nov 2012. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Veenstra, Gerry. “Economy, community and mortality in British Columbia, Canada.” Social Science & Medicine 56 (2003): 1807-1816. Print. (ACADEMIC SOURCE)
Woo, Andrea. “Lack of cheap daycare major cause of child poverty, says advocacy groups”. The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont] 22 Nov. 2012: S.1. Canadian Newsstand. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. (MEDIA SOURCE)