Regional development

OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Québec, Canada


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OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Québec, Canada 2010 | OECD Free preview | Powered by Keepeek Digital Asset Management Solution  

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Pages 304


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 maximise 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.

The case of Québec can inspire policy makers dealing with issues of remote rural regions, resource-based communities, and capacity building in rural areas.  It will also interest academics and students.


Key facts

  • Canada has the largest rural area within the OECD. More than 95% of the territory is classified as rural, yet only 29% of Canadians live in predominantly rural areas.
  • Rapid urbanisation in many parts of Canada is magnifying the large rural-urban split and increasing regional disparities. In Québec this divide is less intense due to a denser network of small and medium-sized cities in rural regions.
  • Rural Québec generates 20% of the province’s GDP and overall is gaining population and jobs. Nevertheless, regional disparities remain, with some suburban and intermediate areas attracting residents and business while predominantly rural areas lose them.
  •  Structural changes in Québec's predominantly rural areas include ageing and population decline, fewer job opportunities, and the risk of decreasing environmental quality. In addition, the future of some resource-based communities is threatened.


Key policy issues

  • Québec has developed a specific rural policy (Politique nationale de la ruralité - PNR) - separate from agricultural and economic policy - to promote rural development. It focuses on social capital and aims to build community capacity and ensure that rural areas are occupied in a dynamic and sustainable way. Quebec’s PNR, which is in line with the OECD New Rural Paradigm, is one of the most advanced in the OECD area.
  • This policy effectively promotes socio-economic development in accessible rural areas and intermediate rural areas. However, it has a limited impact on the remote rural regions and resource-based rural communities which are the most vulnerable in Québec.
  • The provincial law protecting agricultural land from urbanisation is enforced in the same way across the entire province. This province-wide enforcement does not effectively protect valuable agricultural land in fringe metropolitan areas, e.g. Montreal, and it is limiting development in rural and remote rural areas.
  • The promotion of rural development is hindered by lack of co-ordination between the provincial and federal governments and duplication at the local level.



  • Integrate rural policy decisions into local economic and entrepreneurial development and enhance the role of the supra-local level (groupings of municipalities).
  • Protect pools of skilled labour in rural areas to encourage innovation and diversification of the local economy. In areas suffering from the economic results of declining natural resources, work with the community to facilitate the transition to other economically sustainable sources of employment, taking into account both the reduction in population that in many cases has occurred and new skill requirements.
  • Using green belts, reduce urban sprawl (promote compact cities) and protect valuable agricultural land and amenities surrounding urban centres.  In predominantly rural regions, by contrast, allowing greater scope for the development of unused agricultural land can create new economic opportunities.


Table of contents



Assessment and recommendations

  • Inclusive governance for rural areas
  • Development in lagging areas
  • Environmental challenges in different rural territories

Chapter 1. Trends, perspectives and policies for rural Canada

This chapter broadly discusses socioeconomic conditions in rural Canada and briefly introduces the national strategy to promote rural development.  After introducing a regional typology, it benchmarks Canadian rural areas against other OECD rural regions in terms of economic competitiveness. Section 1.1 focuses on demographic trends, and sections 1.2 and 1.3 discuss rural-urban linkages and social well-being in the country. Sections 1.4 and 1.5 describe the economic framework and environmental challenges in rural Canada. Finally, section 1.6 presents the main challenges for rural development, introduces the national strategy to promote rural development, and discusses some of the limitations of the Canadian approach.

Chapter 2. Economic profile of rural Québec

This chapter provides a socioeconomic assessment of rural Québec. The first section presents a regional typology of the province’s rural areas. Next, it focuses on the source of economic competitiveness in rural territories: the productive framework, the labour market and the sectoral contribution to the rural economy. It then focuses on the social well-being of rural Québécois, with an emphasis on service delivery. Finally, it discusses the main challenges to the sustainability of rural communities in Québec.

Chapter 3. Assessment of rural policy in Québec

This chapter assesses provincial policies targeting rural development and features good practices introduced to cope with the rural development challenges in Québec. The first section presents the evolution of rural policy in Québec. The next section assesses the policies and governance arrangements put in place under the province's Politique nationale de la ruralité (national policy on rurality). The final section broadens the policy assessment to include sectoral policies implemented by the provincial government that affect rural development.

Chapter 4. Policy recommendations

This chapter addresses the critical issues discussed in Chapter 3. It puts forward policy recommendations and provides additional information on current good practice in Québec and specific international examples which show how other countries are coping successfully with challenges similar to those in Québec.


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