The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women today completed a consultation paper on Land, Local Governance, and Rural Development. It contains the insights of more than 20 women from across the Island. The report highlights their words and their stories.
Summary of Consensus Points:
- The rural landscape and lifestyle of Prince Edward Island are unique and distinctive features of Prince Edward Island, and sustaining the role of primary producers on land and sea, as well as the working landscapes of land and sea, must be central to planning for all land use, local governance, and rural development.
- Planning for land use, local governance, and rural development should all apply specific indicators and measures that make visible and give value (economic and otherwise) to women’s activities in their homes and communities and identify the value of unpaid, underpaid, and voluntary work.
- Going into the future, legislation and supports for agriculture must ensure a substantial portion of the Island’s land is protected for food production, and farmers must be supported to grow food. This will require many tools working together: local and provincial consensus-building around land use, investment in agriculture that makes food central and growing food sustainable, and financial support models for current farmers who wish to retire to be able to do so without being forced to sell their farms into development.
- To protect and sustain coastal land, we must assess the jurisdictional and constitutional tools we already have as a province, apply them with intelligence, and add to them as necessary to address specific current and foreseeable challenges we collectively agree are important.
- For effective land use and development planning, governments must clarify who has jurisdiction over what kinds of decisions. As a general principle, the democratic decisions of local governments should take precedence on local issues.
- There was a strong sense that the current consultation through the Commission on the Land and Local Governance should be a first – not a final – step towards greater incorporation. Women expressed that they wanted to see the Commission’s recommendations followed up with more intensive and inclusive local consultation, including elected representatives, to tease out the implications of any proposed models for increased incorporation.
- Any models that propose increased incorporation or are based on regional models should balance the benefits of local engagement and local governance with regional cooperation to meet shared needs. The priorities for regional services should be determined by local governments through consensus-building processes and should not be centrally dictated.
- In order for the number of women candidates and councillors in municipal elections to continue to grow, any proposed changes to municipal structures must be analyzed with an eye to potential gender differences in outcomes under new models.
- To achieve more diverse and inclusive local governments, a key element of municipal reform must include structural, adequate financial support for child and elder care for elected municipal officials to participate in meetings. Whenever possible, times for meetings, consultations, and public hearings should privilege the schedules of people with caregiving responsibilities.
- A consultation process that starts from acknowledging differences – for instance, a process based on a model of deliberative dialogue – is an essential part of creating a multi-faceted plan for land, governance, and development that serves the shared interests of many.
- Appropriate models for development for Prince Edward Island should reflect changing relationships between the “global” and the “local” and complex understanding of how “tradition” and “modernity” meet in the contemporary context of Prince Edward Island’s social, cultural, political, and environmental landscape. Development planning should come from a deep sense of what we do well, what we can do better, and what we uniquely have to offer in our Island geography and demography.
- Essential, supportive services that enable women and vulnerable groups to benefit more equally from economic development include transit and transportation, child and elder care, violence prevention services, supports for food security, literacy development, and livable wages and incomes. Policies and programs that address these wraparound services support women and others to take advantage of training, education, and employment opportunities, and to benefit more equally from economic development.
- Where issues of rural development may have different health impacts on women and children compared to men, the precautionary principle should be applied. Proximity should be privileged in decisions about land and development: people should have the power to make decisions at the local level about issues that potentially affect the health of citizens in their locality. Decisions made at a distance should not overrule democratic local decisions.
- In future, public consultation processes on land, local governance, rural development, and similar issues that touch rural people and rural economies should be held from November to March, and never in the high seasons for primary production and seasonal employment.