Rural Economic Development Minister Bernadette Jordan is looking for input from rural Canadians on what they think would make their communities more economically successful. (Submitted photo)

Federal minister looking for economic ideas for rural areas like Cowichan

Bernadette Jordan is the minister for the new Ministry of Rural Economic Development

Bernadette Jordan wants to know what residents in the Cowichan Valley think is needed to improve the local economy.

Jordan is the minister for the newly minted Ministry of Rural Economic Development and has been travelling across the country and meeting with people living in rural communities.

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She is asking them for their stories and ideas as the federal government develops an economic strategy that addresses the priorities and needs of rural Canadians from across the country.

Jordan has yet to visit the Valley in her travels, but she is hoping residents will send their ideas to her until she has scheduled a time to come here.

“We recognize there are big differences between the country’s urban and rural areas in regards to their economies and what is needed to make sure they are sustainable and vibrant,” she said.

“Faster and more reliable internet service has been identified by many as a key to growth in many rural areas. It’s hard to grow a business or even raise a family these days without fast and reliable internet so it will be part of our economic strategies.”

Jordan said the federal government’s budget for 2019 aims to give every single household and business in Canada access to high-speed internet of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload by 2030, no matter how rural and remote, by working with provinces, territories and industry to deliver up to $6 billion in new investments.

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Jordan said the need for more available and affordable housing is also being identified in many communities across Canada.

“Many people think this issue is only a problem in larger centres, like Vancouver and Toronto, but many rural communities are trying to deal with it as well,” she said.

“The federal government has made significant investments in affordable housing in recent years but, right now, we’re determining how to put our best foot forward to continue to deal with these types of issues. It’s a big puzzle, and it’s up to me and my new ministry to put all the pieces together.”

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Jordan said rural communities must be vibrant and healthy to be successful, so the ongoing opioid crisis that has gripped communities across the nation, including the Cowichan Valley, must be dealt with as part of any economic strategy.

“It’s a huge issue and trying to make sure we are doing all that is possible,” she said.

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Jordan also pointed out that local First Nations must be part of a region’s economic strategy if it is to be successful.

“I’ve been meeting with many First Nation leaders across the country as part of this tour, and they want to see growing economies in their communities as well,” she said.

“We’ll be working with other departments and ministries on this issue as we develop our economic strategies.”

Jordan said attracting, training, and retaining talent; as well as aging populations and out-migration, have also been identified as important issues in her many conversations across the country.

Anyone with ideas or comments to help Jordan in her and her ministry’s work can send them by email to infc.rural.infc@canada.ca.

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