Make way for ‘smart’ communities!

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Added: Wed, 01/29/2020 - 9:34pm
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Carl Hager
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

Recent demographic statistics predict Canada’s population will top 50 million by 2050; about a 50% growth from today’s population. That growth will occur in large urban communities, the “mega-cities” of the future: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, etc.
Mega-cities will monopolize government funds to provide services where most
people live and they’re needed most. Voting numbers will guarantee this.
For urban communities, a tremendous re-shift in urban planning is needed. Where will houses be built? Will the single dwelling be a thing of the past? How will public
transportation be organized to prevent endless traffic jams? Will climate change encourage city planners to turn to renewable energy sources? The challenges for cities will be endless ….
This change will be incremental and not obvious in daily life, but it’s already
happening. It could be especially threatening to the welfare of small rural communities already facing retreating economic activity, aging populations, and insufficient infrastructure. Their situations will deteriorate unless policies are designed to specifically help rural Canadians. Yet, our recent provincial and federal elections saw almost no attention paid to our rural future. Municipalities and MRC’s don’t have this problem on their monthly agendas.
This demographic shift could also mean a boom for ‘smart’ rural communities if our ducks are set in a row by planning for this future now. Creative local elected
officials need only apply – people with ideas and motivation to make communities places where people will want to live.
Undoubtedly there will be challenges, like governance across wides rural areas, so imaginative models will have to be found.
Is amalgamation Pontiac’s ticket to a successful future? If not, what is? 
Modern mega-cities offer restaurants, cultural centres, shopping, employment, medical centres, etc. What can rural communities offer? Low crime rates? Imagine what ‘smart’ rural communities could look like - with full internet and cell services, an activist intelligent local media, super-schools, multi-ethnic community efforts, inter-community transit.
The worst thing local elected officials could do is act on the premise that rural
communities should replicate the big city. 
Rural outdoor activities will attract jaded, smog-laden urban folk. Fresh air and good water make the difference in a world of digital connectivity. A genuine counter-culture would be proximity to neighbours, knowing them rather than fearing them, valuing shared services, and sharing resources. So how do we make the best use of these assets to attract the up-grading our towns require?
These questions are not easy to answer – at a distance. And the easy answers are likely insufficient, given that they can only be speculation at this time, but they are
necessary questions. Any government – from federal to municipal – which does not ask them and does not include such deliberations in their planning and operations will fall short. The requirements are tough to unite: vision, fortitude, care, frugality.  The status quo is not an option; we must expect our leaders to apply themselves to this question of our future. I ask you, are they?