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OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Québec, Canada 2010

image of OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Québec, Canada 2010

OECD's review of rural policy in Quebec.  It finds that in rural Québec, both population and personal income are growing, on average, and the province’s economic base continues to diversify. Land occupancy is more homogenous than in the rest of Canada, due to the presence of denser networks of small and medium-sized communities. However, mirroring the situation at the national level, the province displays large regional disparities. The sustainability of some rural communities, especially if remote and resource-based, is challenged by demographic and economic decline. In this context, Québec has developed one of the most advanced rural policy approaches in the OECD, closely in line with the framework suggested in the OECD’s New Rural Paradigm. The province’s rural policy does not have a sectoral focus, and aims at community empowerment and land occupancy.  

To maximize returns on its rural policy investments, Québec needs to integrate social development more strongly with economic and entrepreneurial development, and further strengthen the supra-local level of government as the centre for rural and territorial development strategies. This should be combined with stabilisation measures in lagging areas, through the accumulation of human capital and enhanced access to land in predominantly rural territories. To address environmental challenges, natural resources should be protected both in the outskirts of metropolitan zones and in remote areas.  

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Assessment and recommendations

On average, rural Québec is attracting new residents.1 In the rest of Canada the rural population decreases and population in urban regions increases at twice the OECD average, but in Québec the trend is closer to the international average (Figure 0.1). The spatial distribution of population in Québec is different from that of Canada. It is based on relatively large networks of small cities located in rural regions, while Canada overall displays a high concentration of population in larger urban areas. Thus, the province does not display the large rural-urban split that characterises the rest of Canada. Rural Québec as a whole has actually gained population since the end of the 1990s, owing to the concentration of people in accessible rural areas close to urban nodes and metropolitan regions. As in other Canadian provinces, these territories display the highest growth rates in terms of population within Québec.

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