Development needed in all areas of P.E.I. - even rural regions

Published on November 15, 2016

A wet spot is avoided as a tractor and planter put in a crop of potatoes in a field off the Piusville Road during spring planting earlier this year.

Whatever the benefits may be for the provincial government to take ownership of the Summerside Regional Development Corporation and the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation, the current school review process drives home the importance of greater emphasis on development in rural P.E.I.

Prince Edward Island’s urban centers are growing, and that’s good and needs to continue. There needs to be new opportunities in job creation so that families that move to the Island’s urban centers can remain rather than have to make the decision to move to hotspots elsewhere in the country.

But there also needs to be new opportunities created in rural P.E.I. so that families will have reason to remain in communities like Alma, Bedeque, Coleman, DeBlois, Ellerslie, French River and the larger rural municipalities like Kensington, Alberton, O’Leary and Tignish.

Prince Edward Island’s rural communities are losing out. They’re losing out to Summerside and Charlottetown and they’re losing out to job markets in Central and Western Canada.

For some, it is an adventure, a chance to get away and make a better living for their families, but some leave out of desperation, unwilling and unable to exist on rural Prince Edward Island’s seasonal economy.

Rural Islanders need to have more reasons to remain in their communities. They need more job opportunities; and not just at a pay scale barely above minimum wage.

Yes, keep the opportunities coming in Charlottetown and Summerside, but when the work can be carried out as efficiently in Bloomfield or Borden-Carleton, remind the job generators of the rural benefits.

The plight of and challenges facing rural P.E.I. communities came to the surface at a recent school review meeting for the Westisle Family of Schools,  where speakers presented a united front. No one said anything sounding like: ‘Keep my school and close that one.’

The possibility of school closures was a serious concern to many in attendance, but they reminded the consultant of some of the things lacking in the region.

“Loss of services has become the status quo in West Prince and we can no longer accept this for our system and ultimately for our children,” one presentation stressed.

Another resident suggested closing schools would likely lead to job losses, and those workers would then have to go elsewhere in search of employment, taking their families with them, resulting in even lower student numbers in the region. The exodus grows.

There is a need for optimism to be created in rural communities that will make young workers want, and able, to stay where they can raise their families, and build rural communities back up again. The provincial government has a significant role to play in that. It needs to place a renewed emphasis on rural development.