Address  by  Bernadette Jordan  Minister of Rural Economic Development  at the  Launch of the Rural Economic Development and Connectivity Strategies

Speech

New Ross, Nova Scotia
June 27, 2019

Good morning, everyone.

Thank you for joining me today.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq people.

Thank you Tina, for being our emcee today!

I’m so pleased that everyone here is able to join me at this wonderful space. I think it’s so important to reflect on where we have come from in our rich history as rural Canadians.

The Ross Farm Museum offers us the opportunity to see how much our communities and our way of life may have changed, while demonstrating that certain traits – like our spirit and resilience – have stayed the same. 

While spaces like the Ross Farm are linkages to our past, we’re now able to share that past with the world.  

In fact, we’re able to share our event today on Facebook-Live! A special hello to everyone tuning in across the country!

Since my appointment as Minister of Rural Economic Development in January, my Parliamentary Secretary, Marc Serré, and I have visited every province and territory across the country.

We’ve seen first-hand how communities are reinventing themselves to adapt to a changing world.

We’ve heard first-hand what their challenges are, and what they feel their communities need so they can continue to prosper and thrive.

And now my tours have come full circle, as I am back home in Nova Scotia!

It was important to me to be here to make this announcement. Because in all my travels, whenever I brought up my experiences here at home, they resonated with everyone. Though not all communities are the same, our rural spirit sure is!  

Rural communities are an integral part of the Canadian economy, and I am here today to highlight the innovation and creativity of the hard-working people that call these communities home.  

Rural Canada makes up about twenty percent of our population, and they contribute to about thirty percent of our country’s gross domestic product.

From day one, our government has been taking actions to reflect the needs of real people—from the middle class tax cut, to creating thousands of high-quality and affordable childcare spaces.

These are the types of things that matter.

As Canada’s first Minister of Rural Economic Development, I have been focused on those very things.

From announcing significant investments in developing further access to broadband, to rebuilding our country’s infrastructure. My focus is on you, the people.

Through my travels, I heard directly from municipal leaders, workers, families, seniors, and people from all walks of life.

Community members told me they want to maintain and support their local economies.

They want to welcome newcomers to live and work in their communities – people with the skills and talents that are essential to maintaining strong rural economies.

They need the infrastructure to support housing—affordable housing. They need infrastructure that can withstand climate change, and keep them safe in extreme weather.

And above all else, Canadians told me that they needed reliable and affordable high-speed Internet and mobile connectivity. 

The rural Canadians I talk to love their communities and want to see them thrive.  

Though they love to see their children travel the world and gain new experience, they want them to have the option of coming back home—they want them to have the opportunities available to do so.

They don’t want to see their parents leave their homes to access services they don’t have at home.

These were the issues on the minds of the people I met with from right across the country. And that’s why I’m here: because our government is continuing to listen and we will continue to take action.

Today, I am announcing two national strategies.

  • The first is our Rural Economic Development Strategy, called “Rural Opportunity, National Prosperity. An Economic Development Strategy for Canada”.
  • The second, our federal connectivity strategy, called “High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy.”

These strategies are part of our Government’s roadmap for the future of rural Canada.

The Rural Economic Development Strategy builds on the work and investments currently underway that are driving the economic growth of rural communities across Canada.

The Strategy underlines our Government’s recognition that people, places, and partnerships are at the centre of rural economic development.

And my appointment as the first-ever Minister of Rural Economic Development is another way that we are recognizing the importance of a rural focus at the federal level.

My job is to be the voice of rural Canada, and to champion rural issues to my federal colleagues.

And I’m not doing this alone.

The Centre for Rural Economic Development has been established at Infrastructure Canada, and it will work closely across federal departments and with the Regional Development Agencies – our “boots on the ground,” like ACOA here at home – it will make sure we have a rural lens on issues moving forward.

We are also engaging with provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous communities on rural matters.

They, too, will bring rural perspectives to federal programs and policies – so that they will be designed to consider rural needs and challenges from the beginning, instead of as an afterthought.

The Rural Economic Development Strategy is a starting point to working with rural Canada and rural Canadians. It’s a building block for future progress, and it will grow and change as the needs of rural Canada grow and change.

Central to the way forward is ensuring that all communities, no matter how rural or remote, have access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet. 

Rural Canadians recognize that connectivity underpins many of the needs they’ve identified.

Connectivity creates all kinds of opportunities for rural Canadians to learn new skills, access essential services, and attract new talent and jobs to their communities.

The Connectivity Strategy I am presenting today builds on the investments that the Government of Canada has made to date in broadband and wireless infrastructure.

We are investing $1.7 billion in new funding for broadband infrastructure. This includes a top-up to our existing Connect to Innovate program that is connecting more than 380,000 homes, and the new Universal Broadband Fund.

Additionally, this funding will support new technologies, like Low Earth Orbit Satellites, and research that will connect every single Canadian.

The Connectivity Strategy also details where we are going to go next, how we will get to 100% coverage, and who we will work with to get there.

It shouldn’t matter whether you live in a rural or an urban community, you should have access to the same connectivity and opportunities.

We know from speaking with you that rural communities aren’t in trouble – you don’t need a hand out. Instead, you’ve asked for us to work with you in partnership, and that’s what we’re here to do.

Our goal is to work with you to ensure that our communities continue to be the strong, vibrant, and resilient communities they should be.

Because rural communities are an integral part of our nation, and when they – when we – are successful, Canada is successful.

And through our Rural Economic Development Strategy and Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, we will get there together.

Thank you.


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