If you’re happy and you know it, chances are you’re living in a rural community. That’s according to researchers at McGill University in Montreal and the Vancouver School of Economics, who evaluated the happiness levels of residents across Canada.
After sifting through 400,000 survey responses and looking at the results from 1,215 communities across the country, researchers analyzed the overall life satisfaction of respondents. The results, released in May 2018, suggested happiness is easier to attain in rural areas.
Rural residents are happier in their communities than their urban neighbours because of lower housing costs, shorter work commutes and a stronger sense of community.
Even so, it is not all sweetness and light in rural Ontario. There are trade-offs to living in rural areas. Rural residents, farms and businesses struggle with soaring energy costs, rural school closures, unreliable internet and deteriorating roadways and bridges.
Meanwhile, urban Ontario, and the Greater Toronto Area in particular, are struggling with transit and housing crises. It is very clear that Toronto will never catch up to its infrastructure and housing needs at the projected rate of growth. And yet, we continue to try while commute times increase, productivity drops, and housing continues in an accelerating crisis mode.
So, what’s the solution to living happily in Ontario? It is a question of balance.
That balance lies with recognizing that a distribution of growth across all of Ontario addresses rural and urban issues while elevating the quality of life for the entire province. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) continues to advocate for this recognition with its incumbent investment in rural infrastructure to create opportunities outside of urban Ontario — to provide the balance we need.
Access to natural gas as a more affordable energy option, reliable broadband to support families and businesses, education and job opportunities, sound roads, bridges and proper drainage systems to support the transportation of people, goods and services are needed to provide a viable space for Ontario’s future growth. Essential social infrastructure like schools and hospitals will attract new families, more jobs and competitive businesses.
Investing in rural Ontario also offers long-term solutions to the continued housing and transit problems in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA). The study showed higher housing prices and longer commutes are hurting the well-being of urban Canadian residents.
The GTHA’s current growth rate is unsustainable. Ontario needs a new approach beyond trying to play catch-up. The solution lies in investing in rural Ontario.
With prudent public investment, rural Ontario can offer affordable housing and job opportunities in working communities throughout the province. Who doesn’t want to live and work in a community where everyone can achieve the best quality of life for himself?
Drew Spoelstra is an executive member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He is also a dairy farmer officially within the city limits of Hamilton.