Information is good - and raises more questions!

by Rural Ontario Institute 21. October 2014 13:05

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning migration by age group. It is provided by Nelson Rogers, MSW, EdD, Principal Consultant, Community Ingenuity. 

The Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets bring together a range of data in a user-friendly, readable format that hit the middle ground of more than a briefing note but less than a research paper. Hopefully the fact sheets are being accessed by rural municipal staff and rural organizations as it would be challenging to assemble equivalent information from Statistics Canada and similar sources. That said, the question remains “Now that I know, what can I do with all this information?”  Here are a few thoughts on how the recent demographic fact sheets apply to Lanark County.

Although it is well known that immigration is a key component of Canadian public policy for a number of economic and demographic reasons, with few exceptions this is a much more important issue for urban areas than rural. In the 2011-12 period covered by the “Components of Population Change” fact sheet, Lanark County had 46 immigrant arrivals but 93 emigrant departures, for a net loss of less than one tenth of a percent of the total population of over 67,000. Since the birth/death ratio is fairly evenly balanced, the major source of population growth is due to migration within the province resulting in a net increase of 269 people in the same timeframe. The “Non-metro Census Division Migration” fact sheet shows that the majority of the Lanark County in and out migration is with the city of Ottawa.  

The fact sheets on employment support the idea that a reasonable rate of population growth is important for employment and economic reasons.  (A side note – the fact sheets need to be reviewed together since understanding one issue often depends on insights from related issues.) Based on the employment and demographic information highlighted in the fact sheets, if Lanark County is going to achieve a healthy growth rate (i.e. closer to the provincial average), there would likely be significant impact from a focus on recruitment from Ottawa and implementation of measures to reduce movement to Ottawa, but little impact from a focus on immigration. As policy decisions are made at the county level, or by municipalities, or community organizations and agencies, the data would support declining to participate in immigrant settlement initiatives, but implementing measures in the areas of zoning, property development, property taxation, etc. that are likely to attract Ottawa residents to relocate to Lanark County or reduce the migration from the county to Ottawa. Examples of results of these policies would include new subdivisions that feature retirement-friendly housing at price points that are attractive to Ottawa homeowners (and some are currently under development in Smiths Falls).  

Other research on the Lanark County labour market indicates that population migration is quite different for the various age cohorts. (Another side note – the fact sheets answer some questions but raise others that require further research.  Whether this is a quality or a fault lies in the eye of the beholder.) Out-migration is particularly strong in the 18-24 age group and in-migration is strongest in the 45-64 age group, and migration is fairly well balanced for people 25 to 44. While a certain amount of out-migration of young people is healthy for reasons related to education, employment, and life stage, the out-migration of the middle ages has serious consequences for local businesses, schools, and other social institutions. Addressing this issue would require more sophisticated and targeted policy actions than those outlined above – perhaps such things as start-up or expansion incentives for businesses that address quality of life issues for people aged  25 to 54, or employee recruitment assistance for employers attempting to fill mid-career positions.

Overall, the fact sheets present information that should stimulate informed discussion of policy alternatives, as well as reveal the need for further research.


Is rural Ontario already the face of things to come for Canada? Yes and no

by Rural Ontario Institute 19. September 2014 09:31
Statistics Canada recently released Canada-wide population projection scenarios for provinces and territories. The projections take 2013 numbers and look ahead 40 years and are based on various sets of assumptions about key components of population change such as inter-provincial migration, fertility and morbidity rates and international migration.  

Have a look at what these projections are saying about Canada’s potential future and compare it to where rural Ontario already is today. Click here. Several of the key implications of the projections are already a reality in much of rural Ontario – higher levels of senior dependency and an increasingly slow rate of natural increase as deaths start to overtake the number of births. Ray Bollman’s presentation to the recent Ontario East conference highlighted some of these realities pointing out that rural economic development is going to be harder than it used to be. 

ROI’s recent Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets show that 17 of 27 non-metro (rural) census divisions were already showing net natural decreases for 2012/13. In terms of the senior dependency ratio - the number of people over 65 for every 100 people in the 15-64 workforce age range - all Ontario non-metro census divisions are now already over 40 with some counties having a senior dependency ratio over 60. Contrast that with the projections which suggest Canada as a whole would move from 30 now to 37 seniors per 100 in the workforce by 2030 in a medium growth scenario.

How rural Ontario innovates and deals with business succession planning, health care, mobility and social service needs of our current population structure can provide models or lessons learned that will be relevant in the future for almost all parts of Canada. Wouldn’t it show forethought and good public policy leadership to get some recognition of that and see some extra resources flow to rural agencies and organizations so that they can test out new approaches that should prove useful for everyone else in the years to come? 

What is clearly different about rural Ontario now than Statistics Canada’s overall projections at the provincial level are the levels of international migration. Continuing international migration is going to be the key driver of future population growth in the Canada-wide projections and might have you thinking that it could also serve to arrest potential population decline in rural places. Except that very few international immigrants choose to settle in small-town Ontario – despite the best efforts of Local Immigration Partnerships to create welcoming communities.

Perhaps it is time for a serious conversation about this.  

Perhaps it's not the integration services in the receiving communities which are actually the roadblock here, perhaps it’s the outlook and make-up of the incoming population. Highly educated, skilled immigrants coming from very large, dynamic globally interconnected cities (think Mumbai, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Manilla) just may not see their future in small towns – they could just be big city-oriented in their vision of their place in the world and maybe even haven’t considered living in a small town. Any forthcoming review of the Ontario Immigration Strategy should really consider the settlement patterns of newcomers and whether we could be doing more to encourage settlement in existing communities outside the congested GTA.  


Need to think seriously about how we welcome newcomers

by Rural Ontario Institute 16. September 2014 13:33

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning immigration, migration and components of population change. It is provided by Alex Goss, Project Manager at the Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership. 

The Guelph Wellington Local Immigration Partnership is a group of over 80 partners, organizations, businesses, and individuals that are working on immigration issues. Our vision is to create a welcoming community by addressing barriers to employment, economic development, access to services, and inclusion and awareness of immigration issues. While we focus on immigrants, our vision is for everyone, and immigration and population growth means a larger, more skilled workforce, that can attract businesses to the community and create a more resilient and thriving economy. To create a welcoming community, we need to both understand how our communities are evolving, and demonstrate the value and importance of immigration – Focus on Rural Ontario information on immigrant arrivals and migration helps in both regards. 

We believe that immigrants create an overall economic benefit to our communities and strive to encourage other immigrants and newcomers to move to Wellington and Guelph. The Focus on Rural Ontario information tells us who is coming to Wellington and Guelph and from where. We’re able to access annual information about immigrant arrivals, see how we compare to other communities across Ontario, and whether we’re doing a good job of encouraging immigration to this area.  This helps us understand the attractiveness of our communities to newcomers and where some of our strengths are. It also helps identify potential challenges and opportunities around the attraction and retention of newcomers.  

In speaking with people across our region, we’ve found that there are some misconceptions about the role that newcomers and immigrants play in our communities. We sometimes hear that immigrants are taking our jobs, or that immigrants are lowering wages for Canadian-born workers. However, the opposite is true as immigrants are economic drivers for many communities in Ontario such as Wellington County and Guelph. Focus on Rural Ontario data presented on international migration, births, and net migration paints a clear picture of how quickly our community is growing and the critical role immigration plays in that growth. This allows us to present the facts to our local stakeholders, businesses, and residents, on some of the demographic and economic benefits that newcomers bring to our communities. For example, we can now say that 32% of all population growth in Guelph Wellington was as a result of international migration, that our labour force and skills in the community are growing because of immigration. While these numbers are encouraging on one level, we also know that immigrants are not evenly-distributed across our region as Guelph is home to nearly 90% of local immigrants. By presenting the facts, and raising awareness about the benefits of immigration, we hope to encourage people in our region – including in the more rural parts of Wellington County – to think seriously about how we welcome newcomers.  



Employment Fact Sheets Useful but More Detail Would Be Better

by Rural Ontario Institute 4. September 2014 10:37

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning Employment and is provided by Bonnie O'Neill, Executive Administrator of the Ontario East Economic Development Commission.  

Economic Development professionals in Ontario East find these fact sheets to be most helpful in seeing trends in economic growth for the region. This information can provide a validation or comparison with other statistics and numbers from other sources or being used by site selectors. The comparison to the broader Ontario data and information is valuable in environmental scans completed both regionally and municipally. However, the challenge that communities and municipalities have in Eastern Ontario with labour force data is that the monthly statistics are only available for the large geographies known as “economic regions” or Census metropolitan areas. These regions cover broad and diverse economies and not necessarily useful for those working at the local, county or other regional levels.

In discussing this with a few of the municipal EDO’s in Eastern Ontario, their comments were that while they enjoy getting the information, they use the numbers with caution, and tend not to share it broadly as they find that this causes questioning because the numbers may be different (due to different definitions and geographies) from other sources. If work force planning agencies and provincial and federal government could find a way to give us access to better labour market information that would likely be more useful. 


Fact sheets create discussion about rural AND urban income

by Rural Ontario Institute 4. September 2014 10:25

This commentary is about the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning Income and is provided by Nancy Fischer, Senior Program Analyst with Social Services at the City of Peterborough and Dawn Berry-Merriam, the Research & Policy Analyst for the Peterborough Social Planning Council.

It is exciting to see the new release of Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets. They provide analysis in areas that often municipalities do not have the resources to explore. Concentrating on income gaps is a great way to kick off the new fact sheets, providing one indicator on the general economic well being of the communities. 

Peterborough is a partially non-metro census division – an urban centre surrounded by an extensive rural geography. In some ways, our community behaves like a metro census division and in other ways it looks more like a non-metro census division. The comparisons between the average income, metro and non-metro income gaps and the male and female income gaps highlight some of the diversity partially non-metro census divisions may experience. It is interesting, though, that all incomes (both metro and non-metro) decline during weak economic times, but non-metro incomes have declined more slowly and are continuing to close the gap since 2000.  

Locally, there are often questions about the differences across our geographic area between more rural communities and the urban core. Often it is assumed that the urban core would have higher incomes, but there are many low income areas located in the more urban neighbourhoods. These fact sheets introduce thoughtful analysis about rural income patterns but they also serve to start new conversations and explorations about income distribution within our areas. As mentioned in the fact sheets, the struggle with looking at average income is that it sometimes hides trends such as highly diverse incomes in an area. 

We looked at the fact sheets and combined them with other sources, and it raised some questions for planners in our area to consider.

Entrepreneurship  is a key source of income in our area. Recent findings by the Conference Board of Canada show that Peterborough has the highest percentage of immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada. This statistic on immigrant entrepreneurship in our community is a strong endorsement for both the business climate and quality of life in Peterborough.

Across 35 Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), the highest rates of immigrant self-employment in 2012, were in: 

• Peterborough– 36% 

• Kelowna – 29% 

• St. Catharines - Niagara – 24% 

• Kingston – 23% 

• Hamilton – 22% 

• Victoria – 22% (1)

A question raised from this information is, “What has been the impact of diversification on our economic health?” 

There are more people living in the City of Peterborough than the County of Peterborough.  Some questions arising from this information are, “Could this be due to people migrating into the city to access services that are not available in the rural parts of our community?” and “Do the metro and non-metro income differences that we see from the fact sheets also exist between rural areas and the more urban areas within census divisions?”

The Rural Ontario Institute welcomes comment on issues of importance in rural Ontario. If you have perspective to share, please call us at 519-826-4204 or email info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca

 

(1) Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies, The Conference Board of Canada conferenceboard.ca, Benchmarking the Global Attractiveness of Canadian Cities, October 21, 2013


Youth Underemployment: skills ‘mismatch’ doesn’t tell the whole story

by Rural Ontario Institute 16. July 2014 16:22

Stats Canada released a report examining the proportion of young men and women in Canada who are "overqualified" for their job, with a focus on university graduates. 

The study compared education credentials to the level of job skills required and measured overqualification as the proportion of individuals with a university degree working in jobs requiring a high school diploma between 1991 and 2011. 

According to this measure, 18% of both male and female university graduates aged 25 to 34 were overqualified in 2011. These proportions have changed little since 1991, despite the large increase in the supply of university graduates over the period. 

The main reason cited in the report for the current unemployment and underemployment rates among youth is the “skills mismatch” between those looking for work and the jobs are open. However, this misses an important point brought up recently at a rural forum organized by ROI that explored the issue of youth unemployment. 

Speaking in Brantford to a full house, Francis Fong, Senior Economist with TD Bank believes that a big part of the issue is that employers have dramatically reduced their investment in training employees. Traditionally, employers would provide on-the-job training for new recruits. However, Fong notes that companies are now spending 40% less per employee for job training than they did 20 years ago. Given the current market conditions, there is an expectation that new hires are job-ready on arrival. To view a copy of Francis Fong’s presentation, click on the link below.

Young workers are always the hardest hit during economic downturns. The fact that job prospects don’t (on-the-surface, at least) appear worse for recent graduates than at other times in history probably doesn’t provide much comfort to struggling young job seekers in the market today. However, one positive takeaway message demonstrated by history is that as the economic cycle plays out, youth employment opportunities do improve …eventually.

Francis Fong - Economic Challenges Facing Youth - Feb 11 2014.pdf (257.87 kb)


New Mandatory Training for Health and Safety includes the Nonprofit Sector

by Rural Ontario Institute 11. July 2014 10:59

Effective July 1, 2014 employers in Ontario need to have all workers and supervisors complete a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program. This is in response to the new Occupaional Health and Safety Act Regulation. The non-profit sector is included in these regulations. Training can be done online or by using the workbook provided and is a straightforward process to ensure staff is up-to-date. If your organization already does training, check the execptions section to see if you qualify.

The Ministry of Labour has developed a free training package including workbooks and e-Learning modules.  Materials will be available in multiple languages very soon.  Go to http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/training/ for more details.  

 


Small hospitals are not "mini" versions of large hospitals - and need to be treated differently

by Rural Ontario Institute 12. June 2014 12:35

Guest blog from Dr. Sarah Newbury, Chief of Staff of Wilson Memorial General Hospital, Marathon, ON

Mary is a 75 year old woman for whom I have been the family physician for the past 15 years.  When I received her mammogram report 10 years ago which identified a cancer in her breast, she entered an active phase of care. Following her mastectomy at the regional tertiary centre, she began her chemotherapy, almost all of which was delivered locally in our outpatient department under the guidance of the oncologist in Thunder Bay and with my local supervision. During her visits for chemotherapy her labwork was drawn by the lab tech she has known for 20 years and the chemo itself was delivered by a nurse who has been part of our hospital for 25 years.   When her COPD worsened a few years ago and she had a number of admissions in the year for her poor breathing, I saw her daily in hospital as her family physician, and at her bedside nursing care was provided by familiar nurses, several of whom she has known for years. Now she is developing dementia, and while I continue to see her in the clinic regularly, it will not be long before she is admitted to the chronic care ward of our hospital where I anticipate that I, and the nursing team that she knows, will continue to care for her in that familiar setting through that phase of her life’s story.

Mary is just one example of the many, many people in small communities served by community based family physicians working in small local hospitals. These citizens of small rural communities receive their hospital care in a familiar setting from a care team that they often know well through overlapping community circles, and that they trust to provide high quality, local, continuous, comprehensive care.

In the current era, as across the system we work to try to contain costs and create a sustainable health care system, there is great focus on the hospital environment. We talk about “hospitals” as though there are varying sizes of the same institution – small hospitals simply being miniature versions of large hospitals. But small hospitals are very different than their large urban counterparts in many ways.

The large hospital delivers secondary and tertiary level care – by its nature episodic and consultative with specialization within and between institutions. Small hospitals in rural settings are, by contrast, largely extensions of the primary care relationship with predominantly generalist family physicians providing comprehensive care across the spectrum of illness and in the context of the continuous physician patient relationship. In small communities, the small hospital serves as a support for the primary care doctor-patient relationship when the care required cannot be managed in office or home setting.

The need for added layers of “navigators” and “care coordination tools” are much less important when the small hospital provides the single point of entry to the system for such things as urgent after hours care, telemedicine, in-patient, chronic, obstetrical and palliative care and is often the home of many community based services as well.

When I consider an effective system, I believe that patients want a system built on good therapeutic relationships, a system that is easy to navigate and provides high quality, timely care. Health care providers want a system that is efficient for them to work within, that values their role and that allows them to provide high quality care within their scope of practice. Administrators of the system also want an efficient system that provides high quality, coordinated care of good value.

We need to see and understand the relationships that small hospitals have to their communities differently. The small hospital extends the primary care relationship in a way that enriches and supports the potential for high quality care.  In Damariscotta Maine, (population 2218) which ranked most highly on one survey of US hospital safety this year, the staff attributed their good track record to the fact that the patients that they care for are their neighbours and their friends.  

The relationships that are at the heart of small communities are at the heart of the work of small hospitals, too. Our small hospitals need to be seen through a different lens than our large urban hospitals, because the work that we do and the context of the primary care relationship through which we do much of it is different, and is efficient and valuable. We need to support small communities to anchor services in and around the hospital environment, continuing to build on the relationship the hospital has to the community and the relationships that patients have to the health care providers who serve them.

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The reality of rurality

by Rural Ontario Institute 12. June 2014 10:51

Guest blog from Janet Tufts, Director, Community Partnerships & Investment, United Way London & Middlesex

Last year, United Way London & Middlesex released the findings of a comprehensive research study that assessed the social and economic needs of residents in Middlesex County. The results, or major themes, were not all that surprising. In fact, they were similar to the issues United Way has been so committed to addressing through our Community Impact Agenda, and that we see in the “big city” – poverty, mental health and the challenges faced by people making difficult life transitions.

But what was interesting in the findings was the realization that these increasingly complex and troubling issues are intensified by what we have coined, the reality of rurality. The reality of a lack of services and accessibility, a lack of information about existing services, transportation challenges, the need for confidentiality and safety, and inadequate technology.

We heard about these issues from a myriad of people – teachers and school administrators, police, health and service providers, health administrators, employment counselors, elected officials, and most importantly, the residents themselves – through focus groups, individual interviews, panel discussions, community conversations and a survey. 

Solving serious social issues takes time, innovation and of course, money. We live in an environment with limited dollars and competing priorities, and while United Way is committed to a better community for all, we cannot do this work alone. That’s why we have called upon key influencers to read the report and keep it top-of-mind. We hope it will be used to stimulate more meaningful discussions, make better-informed decisions, and advance social and economic services to improve the quality of life for County residents.  

To download the full report and/or executive summary, click here.

For more information, please contact Janet Tufts at jtufts@unitedwaylm.ca or 519-438-1723 x 223. 

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Green Party response to questions of importance to rural Ontario

by Rural Ontario Institute 9. June 2014 10:04

The PDF attached below is the response received from Jessica Higgins, Policy and Candidate Support, Green Party of Ontario

Green party response - Rural Ontario Institute.pdf (392.94 kb)

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