FCM calls for cabinet champion to fight crisis in rural Canada



    OTTAWA, May 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Rural Canada needs a champion at the
federal cabinet table and a long-term plan from the federal government to
reverse the decline in its struggling towns and villages.
    That was the message today from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities
(FCM) as it released its report, Wake-Up Call: The National Vision and Voice
We Need for Rural Canada, at a news conference on Parliament Hill.
    "Rural Canada is fighting for its future," said FCM First Vice-president
Basil Stewart, mayor of Summerside, P.E.I. "Industries rooted in rural regions
produce over 50 per cent of Canada's exports, but a lot of rural Canada is
missing out on the growth and prosperity that it does so much to create."
    Stewart added, "If Canada is going to emerge from the global economic
crisis ready for the future, then it needs a sustained commitment to rural
communities and a new champion to keep rural issues on the agenda in Ottawa."
    The report, launched by FCM's Rural Forum and developed with
contributions by Dr. Donald J. Savoie of the Université de Moncton and Dr.
Bill Reimer of Concordia University, shines a light on the growing crisis in
rural Canada and its implications for the national economy. It asks what role
the federal government should play in rural communities and provides a road
map for effective action in Ottawa.
    The recent global economic collapse has exacerbated long-term trends in
rural Canada. The 2006 Census showed that rural Canada's share of the national
population fell below 20 per cent for the first time in history, and rural
communities are attracting less than five per cent of the country's new
immigrants. Compared to the rest of the country, household incomes in rural
Canada are lower than average, life spans are shorter, and chronic poverty is
more common. With shrinking property tax bases, rural communities are
struggling to provide the basic infrastructure and services they need to
attract and retain new residents and businesses.
    "Rural Canada is well-represented in the House of Commons and individual
federal policies and programs deliver clear benefits. But the Government of
Canada has struggled to turn individual policies into a comprehensive plan
that it can implement over time and across federal departments. The
government's Rural Secretariat is one tool to help fix those problems, but it
needs more resources and more pull at the cabinet table," said Stewart.
    "Today we are calling on all parties in the House of Commons to commit to
protecting and expanding federal investments in rural communities; to
appointing a rural champion within the federal cabinet; to working with other
orders of government to build a long-term plan-with long-term funding-for the
future of rural Canada; and to provide adequate resources and political
support for the Rural Secretariat."
    Stewart added, "Rural Canada is fighting for its future. It's a fight
that should matter to all Canadians. With vision and leadership, the actions
outlined in today's report can help rural Canada succeed, and lay the
foundation for strong and prosperous communities in a strong and prosperous
Canada."

    About the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM):

    FCM is the national voice of municipal governments, established in 1901,
representing the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters
that fall within federal jurisdiction. With more than 1,775 members
representing 90 per cent of Canadians, FCM members include Canada's largest
cities, small urban and rural communities, and 18 provincial and territorial
municipal associations.




For further information:

For further information: visit www.fcm.ca; To arrange interviews:
Maurice Gingues, (613) 907-6395, mgingues@fcm.ca

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Federation of Canadian Municipalities

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