Don Mills the Just

Everyone’s favourite pollster is doing the rounds in the Maritimes pitching a fresh view on urban and rural development.  He has adopted what would be called in religious terms a fundamentalist view of urban/rural development as he now defines urban areas as small as a town of 5,000.   This is actually Statistics Canada’s view although they seemed to have tweaked their wording in 2011 and now call them ‘population centres’ rather than urban areas.

For Mills the focus should now be on urban development – not just Halifax and Saint John but smaller ‘urban’ places such as Yarmouth and Campbellton.    The rest should be left to their own devices.  Public services should be centralized in urban areas, economic development, etc.

Mills goes on to talk about EI and the entitlement mentality that exists here, etc.

This is really a variation on the theme, however.  I have long said here that you need to have urban areas connected to each other by a reasonable geographic distance.   Take Nova Scotia, if all development happens in Halifax and very little anywhere else, you end up with a very unstable situation.  Everything just peters out the further you go from Halifax – except in the direction of Moncton which is probably why the corridor between Halifax and Moncton – places like Truro and Amherst  – have done reasonably well.   If Nova Scotia had a small but growing urban concentration in Yarmouth – it would make the outlook for the whole region in that part of the province much stronger.  If there is no urban hub down there at all – it’s problematic in the long term.

My view is that we need to go bakc the drawing board.  We have opportunities in the urban areas.  We have opportunities in the rural areas.  We should pursue both.  Almost by definition – in a knowledge based economy – the opportunities are greater in the urban areas.

Now we have a situation where urban development is occuring and there is growing push back against any kind of development in rural areas and smaller towns.   Increasingly, many areas are satisfied with their migration to retirement villages.   Again, as I have said before, that is not viable.  A retirement village in most cases does not generate enough of an economic base  to be viable – except those in close proximity to an urban centre.

Anyway, I probably agree with Don Mills on 90 percent of his new view on this.

4 thoughts on “Don Mills the Just

  1. I just got interviewed by the Telegraph Journal about townsizing. I moved to Sackville, NB from Calgary over 2 years ago. I can see how costs are higher with a spread out population, but small town are everywhere. I think there is a revenue and attitude problem more than a ‘too many towns’ problem. But I know there is waste in my town for sure so the consolidation of councils might be a good thing.

    I’d like you to post some stats on the costs of rural areas being spread out and how they compare to other provinces. ie. is this the real problem we have in NB?

  2. Forgot to mention that we generate a ton of revenue for NB. FIrst with over $10,000 a year in property tax while we were in Calgary, now over $5000 a year. Over $50K in renovations including driveway paving, new well pump, new air conditioner/heat pumps, basement development, landscaping, snow removal and many other local contracts. And we’re on our own well and septic so all we get is garbage and snow removal. Plus we moved our corporations to NB so there’s the tax revenue and HST.


  3. Perhaps some of the discussions re urban vs rural could be clarfied with some disclosure on real costs of providing services. That gloomy task is being turned over to the regional commissions, since the province lacked the courage to come clean on service delivery costs to LSDs and villages. I expect those deliberations will result in exactly what Mills is calling for.

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