Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rural Nova Scotia & the Old Goat

First published in the June 27, 2012 edition of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

Rural: “of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the country, country life, or country people; rustic.”
Nowhere in that definition are the words “boring”, “redneck”, or “hell hole”. Nor could I find a definition that suggested, “End of civilized life as we know it.” 
Raise your hand if you are tired of the country bashing. As in, “Omygawd, you want me to move to rural Nova Scotia? You can’t be serious. I’ll quit my job before I move to rural Nova Scotia.”
It’ so senseless to move certain jobs out of one community and into another just to make it appear that something is being done to re-populate rural areas. Moving jobs around isn’t going to fix the problem; creating jobs, bringing businesses and industries to these areas, keeping our born-and-bred labourers in the province, now that would fix the problem. 
(Which leads to this question: How can Amherst, which is losing six Justice Department jobs, not be considered rural? It may be a town but it’s surrounded by...ruralness. Many people who choose to live in the country rely on jobs located within the limits of a nearby town or village.) 
And while I’m all for the media shining a light on the truth, a columnist in the province’s major newspaper, which has been on the Save Rural Nova Scotia bandwagon for months, described us as “road-obsessed rural Nova Scotia”. 
What an unfair slag. Our complaints about rough, pot-holed roads, narrow shoulders and bush-filled ditches are legitimate. His negativity reduces us to a one-issue population but his comment bolsters the need for community newspapers. Ever noticed how the major media in this province rarely report west of the toll plaza? Cumberland County is the gateway to this province yet our significance and our opinions don’t rate investigation.
There is nothing wrong with this province that a swift reality check (two decades ago) wouldn’t fix. We can’t rely on industries that are renewable in theory but not in practice; we can’t thrive on seasonal employment; and we can’t repopulate areas by force. Rural areas flourish when people want to live there, when they choose to live there. That’s when they make the most of everything the country has to offer – and that’s more than fishing and forests. 
The problem is we’re trying to close the barn door after the horses (and cows and pigs) are already gone. Farming is a good example of losing an industry that should be stable and enduring. Every single person needs food but both provincial and federal bureaucrats have done everything to undermine farming. Bigger isn’t always better and now that the public is caring about the quality of food and demanding small-scale farming at the local level, it’s too late. We’ve lost both the farms and the next generation of farmers while small, determined producers try to get noticed at farmers’ markets and the side of the road. 
There may be one animal left in the barn, an old goat everyone has ignored for years: tax  cuts. The reality of life in rural Nova Scotia is that it costs more to live here. You want people to live in rural Nova Scotia? You want to create jobs and bring in business? Provide tax relief.
The answer to the problems in rural Nova Scotia isn’t big bailouts of obsolete industries or huge handouts to successful businesses. The answer is to make rural areas as attractive to businesses as they are to tourists.
It’s time the government pandered to us for a change. 

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