Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rural Ontario Institute presents wish list

The Rural Ontario Institute presented a wish list to the provincial finance minister during one of his pre-budget, pre-election consultation sessions, this one in Guelph.

The ROI asked him to:

- Commit to a process for preparing a comprehensive, integrated regional economic development policy framework – one that enables place-based development. Dr. David Freshwater provides the economic rationale for this in his “Growth Beyond Cities” Rural Ontario Foresight Paper.

- Invest to promote growth in small towns where there is under-utilized public infrastructure and thereby encourage good jobs that build the local tax base – achieved while avoiding duplicating new investment in similar infrastructure elsewhere.

- Direct investment toward rural workforce skills shortages which are limiting business growth and can be addressed by:

  developing a new funding formula for schools that keeps education accessible – it is not acceptable that rural high school completion rates fall below urban areas;
  supporting programs which support youth transitions from post-secondary to local job markets;
  building up satellite community college programs to focus on regional training needs;
  contributing to attainable housing programs; and,
  targeting the provincial nominee program to more effectively integrate newcomers to Canada coming to small towns bringing needed skill sets and credentials. 

- Scale up broadband investment. The Ontario government has committed to digital service delivery and recognizes that broadband is necessary for education, business and health innovation. The current funding approach is not sufficient and is leaving many behind. Ontario must scale up investment and we must set our sights much higher than 5 MBPs

- Recognize that rural health outcomes are poorer than in urban centres and embrace the argument of how these are a symptom of a much greater inequity in the broader social determinants of health (such as income/education/social isolation/inadequate housing). This divide is costly to the provincial system but can be remedied in part with a strengthened approach to government services such as education, accessible health care, infrastructure investment and high-speed internet.

            “This is the first time the Institute’s presence has been requested at a pre-budget consultation,” says Rural Ontario Institute chief executive officer, Rob Black.