Thank you for participating and sharing your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions around the priorities of rural communities on May 8, 2019. The event was a success because of your active involvement and thoughtful contributions.
On June 27, 2019, I was proud to announce the Canadian Rural Economic Development Strategy. It is my great pleasure to share this strategy with you now. You can access it online at https://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/rural/strat-eng.html. If you would like a hard copy of the strategy, please do not hesitate to contact us with your mailing address by emailing [email protected].
At the same time, I was also pleased to unveil Canada's Connectivity Strategy. This strategy is our plan to ensure that, over time, all Canadians have access to affordable, high-speed internet, no matter where they live. It also commits to improve cellular access where Canadians live and work, and along major highways and roads. Canada’s Connectivity Strategy can be found online at Canada.ca/get-connected.
Together, these strategies advance the priorities you and many other rural Canadians outlined by putting people, places, and partnerships at the centre of rural economic development. The Rural Economic Development Strategy responds to the diverse challenges that rural communities identified, while enabling sustainable economic growth.
I truly believe that the best way to learn about what’s important to rural Canada is to hear directly from the families, entrepreneurs, and the leaders in our country’s vibrant rural communities. Thank you for sharing your insights as we develop a foundation for a prosperous, competitive and thriving rural Canada.
The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Rural Economic Development
JOHN MCPHEE ([email protected])
“The large telcos (telecommunications companies) aren’t interested in serving less dense populations so it seems to have fallen to municipalities and other groups to try and extend that.”
- Don Clarke, Mayor of Berwick
As a municipal leader, Peter Muttart welcomes any financial boost from other levels of government.
So he’s eager to hear the details of how Kings County can tap into the $1.7-billion for high-speed internet access that the federal government set aside in its March budget.
“We’re already invested as a municipality in the broadband game inasmuch as we’re going to be rolling out broadband to our municipality starting this year,” the warden said in an interview Thursday after federal Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan unveiled the plan behind the federal Liberals’ high-speed internet fund.
“So we’ll be on the poles this year and within two years we’ll have (fibre-optic) broadband through 85 per cent of our municipality. . . . But that leaves 15 per cent unserved so the only way we can get 100 per cent is to be able to access programs such as, I imagine, are being described here.”
Bernadette Jordan, the federal minister of rural economic development, speaks with Don Clarke, the mayor of Berwick, at the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross on Thursday. Jordan unveiled the Liberal government’s million in funding to expand rural internet access in Canada. - John McPheeBesides the high-speed internet plan, Jordan, who is MP for South Shore-St. Margarets, also spoke about her department’s new rural economic development strategy at the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross.
The high-speed internet plan emphasizes importance of creating partnerships with municipalities, community groups and businesses in the move toward universal high-speed internet access (at least 50 megabits per second for downloads and 10 mbps for uploads) by 2030.
A highlight of the economic development plan is the creation of the Centre for Rural Economic Development in Ottawa. That office will help Canadians with such things as navigating the application process for rural funding projects.
As Canada’s first-ever rural economic development minister, Jordan has toured the country to get a sense of what’s important to rural people. She said the lack of access to high-speed internet comes up regularly in her conversations with Canadians.
“So we want to make sure as we build it in the next phase with the universal broadband that we address the concerns that they’ve had,” Jordan told reporters after making her remarks.
The minister said the $1.7 billion can be leveraged into the $6 billion range with contributions from other federal agencies such as the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission and the infrastructure fund.
About 70 per cent of Nova Scotians have access to high-speed internet, mostly in urban areas, said Deborah Page, director of marketing and communications for Develop Nova Scotia, the agency responsible for implementing the province’s $193-million Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust.
The trust was created last year to support community-based internet networks and other groups to bring high-speed rural broadband access to underserved areas in Nova Scotia.
“Our initiative has an objective to ensure we reach a minimum of 95 per cent of rural Nova Scotia homes and businesses” for high-speed internet access, Page said. The agency doesn’t have a set timeline but it usually takes two to five years to implement that kind of province-wide program.
She expects her agency will be involved in leveraging the federal internet money into Nova Scotia projects and talks are ongoing on how that can be done.
Berwick Mayor Don Clarke, who’s also a member of the Valley Community Fibre Network, said the money “is certainly a shot in the arm” to rural communities working to improve access to the internet.
His network, which includes Valley municipalities, Acadia University and the Nova Scotia Community College, was created 10 years ago.
“The large telcos (telecommunications companies) aren’t interested in serving less dense populations so it seems to have fallen to municipalities and other groups to try and extend that,” said Clarke, who was one of many community leaders, business people and residents who packed a Ross Farm Museum conference room for Jordan’s announcement.
Andrew Button, whose Bridgewater/Chester company Mashup Lab provides services to help entrepreneurs start their ventures, said good internet access is crucial for rural business people.
“Just as an example, one of our flagship programs is called Our Dream Business, we put 100 people through that program to create 63 different businesses in 55 different communities across Nova Scotia in the last 18 months,” he said. “So there’s no shortage of entrepreneurial talent in those rural communities and 90 per cent of that programming gets delivered online virtually.
“Right now people are hacking their way around the rural internet challenge and it’s just one other barrier that just gets in their way sometimes in getting a new business off the ground.”
‘It’s not even just affecting prices, it’s causing houses not to sell’Realtor Kristopher Snarby is all too familiar with the South Shore’s internet issues: it’s costing him business.
Over the last six months, he says poor internet has contributed to more than a half-dozen deals falling through.
“It’s not even just affecting prices, it’s causing houses not to sell,” said Snarby, who works for EXIT Realty in Liverpool. “It’s a very dire situation, for sure.”
He added his company loses around 50 to 60 deals per year due to clients wanting high-speed internet in rural areas.
But internet, in many areas across the South Shore, is poor or non-existent.
‘I knew it was going to be bad but I didn’t know it was as bad as it was,’ says local ownerShanna Joudrey knows what’s at stake; the survival of her business, like many entrepreneurs along the South Shore, depends on the Internet.
“I do the majority of my business online,” she said of her wedding planning service, Details Events & Design Studio, which she operates from her home in Branch LaHave.
“Having that social media presence is definitely where I get the majority of my work done.”
However, like 65 per cent of Lunenburg County residents, Joudrey doesn’t have adequate access to even the most basic level of Internet.
She said, until last year, her connection speeds were slower than dial-up — costing her time and money.
“I knew when kids (in the neighbourhood) were home from school. I really couldn’t do much of anything after that point,” said Joudrey.
As per CRTC, an authority on Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications, the basic minimum for Internet is set at 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.
Although these minimums were set in 2016, many households along the South Shore fall far below these minimums or have no Internet at all; for example, dial-up speeds average around 1.5 Mbps.
Whose job is it to provide dependable, affordable internet?
“You could argue forever about whose responsibility that is,” said Allen Webber, warden for the Municipality of Chester.
He added the answer is complex but the incentive to improve Internet speeds across the South Shore is clear: connectivity equals opportunity.
And right now, municipal governments across the region are working to capitalize on quality Internet, which would open up more business, immigration and educational opportunities.
The problem is there’s a level of politics in providing the Web to a large area but a small population.
MODL Mayor Carolyn Bolivar-Getson noted the municipality has made Internet a priority but can’t make meet the CRTC’s minimum 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload speeds without help.
“This is a project which municipalities cannot solve on their own,” she said.
“We want to make sure whatever service we put in place, it has the capacity to be expandable.”
Ninety per cent of the country is expected to meet the CRTC’s standards by 2021.