Rural stakeholders from across Ontario convened in Cobourg Monday March 3, 2014 for the Rural Ontario Summit. The goal of the Summit was to host a province-wide conversation on key social and economic themes with widespread impact across rural Ontario communities. The event was a collaboration between the Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Rural Ontario Institute.
Why does this conversation matter? The number of Ontarians living in rural and small town communities is roughly 2.6 million people – the same number of people that live in Toronto. For a detailed discussion of rural geographies see Focus on Rural Ontario: Overview of Ontario’s Rural Geography - click here.
There were roughly 120 participants in attendance and over 100 more that joined the conversation online. An interactive live-streaming platform helped to increase accessibility, and the Summit’s Twitter hash tag #RuralON was one of the top trending discussion in Canada during the event!
Minister of Rural Affairs, the Honourable Jeff Leal kicked off the day-long event outlining a number of successes he has noted in rural Ontario. Excited about the opportunity to hear from Summit participants he encouraged those at the event and on-line to get involved and contribute to the ongoing dialogue.
Keynote speakers Dr. David Freshwater from the University of Kentucky and Dr. Rob Greenwood, from Memorial University in St. John’s NFLD both identified the need for a rural strategy, supported by ongoing political commitment, with goals and objectives that enable long-term planning. Dr Greenwood emphasized that the broader provincial framework should enable the implementation and development of local strategies. Their presentations are posted on the Rural Ontario Summit webpage: http://ruralontarioinstitute.ca/rural-ontario-summit/
Facilitated dialogue among participants took place throughout the late morning and afternoon, covering a wide range of topics from workforce skills development for youth, new Canadians and rural residents, to investment ready communities and job creation. Outputs from these conversations will be made available soon – stay tuned!
There were a number of rural success stories shared in a session titled Stories From the Field. Headlines like "Rural Incubator delivers new jobs" and "Northern Ontario drives new immigration strategies" came from the participants’ own experiences in rural Ontario. This session was beautifully captured by a graphic artist on poster boards and will be added to our website soon.
Monday wasn’t the first time these issues were discussed, and it certainly won’t be the last. Let’s keep the conversation going! If you would like to write a guest blog for ROI, or just share your perspective and experiences, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at 519-826-4204 or tweet us at @ROInstitute.
One of the graphic recordings from the day - an interesting way to see a presentation!