Many small communities in rural regions struggle to grow and be sustainable.
For peole who govern those communities, it’s a major issue as council look into the future as local population declines or remains stagnant.
One option small municipalities face is to dissolve and become part of a regional government structure. That’s the case with the Village of Donnelly as council has initiated steps to consider a comprehensive regional governance study for Donnelly, the M.D. of Smoky River, the Town of Falher, the Town of McLennan and the Village of Girouxville.
Currently, the region has a population of about 3,950. It has five municipalities with a combined 29 elected council members.
Many people believe that’s over-governance.
The five municipalities have worked together for many years on various regional services and projects. Wouldn’t it be more economical and more efficient to have one regional municipality manage the area without having representatives from five municipalities having to go back to council time after time for approvals?
Why delay the process with five councils rather than having it streamlined by one council?
Big Lakes County council is also looking at the their future. Council adopted a strategic plan for 2023-30 at its regular meeting Oct. 11.
To sustain Big Lakes, the plan emphasizes a regional focus. That regional perspective is vital for all small communities in rural regions.
Collaboration and regional development is one of five key points in the strategic plan presented by Affinity Consulting and Training.
“Strategic planning encourages collaboration and co-operation among neighbouring rural municipalities, fostering regional development,” the plan introduction states.
“By identifying shared goals and collaborating on initiatives, rural communities can pool their resources and expertise, leveraging collective strengths for the benefit of all.
“Strategic planning helps identify opportunities for joint infrastructure projects, resource sharing and co-ordinated economic development efforts, leading to more-efficient and more-effective outcomes.
“This regional approach to strategic planning facilitates sustainable growth and enhances the overall resilience and prosperity of rural areas.
“Strategic planning also stimulates other strategic partnerships, such as with the private sector and industrial partners, which can lead to significant improvement in economic development and employment.”
With all that stated, the Town of High Prairie is a key partner that Big Lakes consider in the process to develop and grow the region.
What’s best for local municipalities to move forward to create stronger and sustainable rural communities?
Regional or not regional?