While most of the response out there has been from the Co-operatives movement (all good points covered in the link provided above), I will focus my comments more on the rural nature of Canada's Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat. Developing mechanisms to support the revitalization of rural areas in a country as large as Canada is challenging to say the least. And while some might question the role of government in rural revitalization, I do not. We have long lived in a country where rural has been equated with agriculture and where supports are targeted at subsidizing sectors in rural areas. Both of these misguided assumptions and strategies has failed to produce the types of impacts that have been desired in rural areas - not just in Canada, but in other countries that have done the same.
There are however, great minds at work that have not only questioned these attempts but have provided new potential solutions to create prosperity in rural areas (with the highest links to poverty - yes, even in Canada). In Canada, the minds that were behind the steering wheel in government are/were in the Canadian Rural and Cooperatives Secretariat. Despite being a small unit, this is a mighty one and I have enjoyed opportunities to work with them in past projects. I found that the emphasis on evidence based decision making, innovation and collective prosperity was not only refreshing, but very relevant. In my work in the field, when many communities members often pick on government representatives, they seemed to speak differently about the folks in the CRCS. They knew them by name, they had met them, they knew of their programs, they benefited from their interactions with them and they were fond of their programs. I guess I mirrored these responses.
I guess I am left with a few questions right now....
- How can we create a climate of innovation and prosperity for rural Canada when the hard work and forward thinking "low cost" Departments such as the Canadian Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat are so drastically reduced?
- What happens of the great work on the three priority areas that people had been working on for the past few years?
- Who will lead the charge in thinking holistically about rural Canada as we move forward?
- What "innovative" strategies or policies are being proposed for rural Canada? By whom?
- Is there a role for a Rural and Cooperatives Secretariat? If so, what is it and can it be achieved with what is left?