Small-town viability and the rural economy : Southern Manitoba, 1971-81

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Lee, Adison
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The growing concern with balanced regional development has led the politicians to pay attention to the redistribution of socio-economic wealth between the urban and rural regions. Regional development policies, on the one hand, are designed to maximize socio-economic well-being of a region regardless of rural or urban distinction. On the other hand, they are also intended to minimize the spatial differences in income, employment opportunities, living standards, and population growth between the urban and rural settlement systems. Within the last two decades, the formulation and implementation of regional development policies in Manitoba had become even more complicated by the issue of population reversal away from metro Winnipeg to rural Manitoba small towns. Although regional planners welcome this geographic redistribution of economic and social activities, the underlying causes and consequences of such a phenomenon are not well understood. In this thesis, attempts have been made to uncover the answers of such an unusual phenomenon in order to provide rational guidance for future small-town development. This research adopts the premises that regional planners ought to include not only economic factors but also social factors and spatial components in a comprehensive regional analysis. Equally important to the objective quality-of-life and economic activity indicators, the subjective components measuring rural residents' preferences for small-town living are also analyzed in depth. The phenomenon of small-town population revival and levels of economic activities are reviewed in the first four chapters of this thesis and together form regional comparisons among the U.S.A., Canada, and Manitoba. The questions of small-town viability and rural economy in the Rural Southern Manitoba region are analyzed by means of statistical modelling in Chapter Five. Throughout that chapter, small towns with different population thresholds and characteristics are incorporated for formulating various regional policies. In the last Chapter, policy implications directed to population growth, manufacturing development, and tertiary employment for small-town development are identified. The empirical findings revealed that subjective factors are positively linked to small-town population growth although they are not correlated with economic development. Based on the findings, some important policy implications are recommended, albeit couched to take into account local needs and resources. In essence, this work provides the understanding of causes and consequences of small-town growth, future research direction in this area, and regional planning policies for the Manitoba government.