Data and definitions
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Various rural definitions are presented in the bulletin by du Plessis et al. (2001) and more details are available in the longer working paper (du Plessis et al., 2002).
Census rural: This is the definition of rural used by Statistics Canada's Census of Population. This definition has changed over time (see Appendix A in du Plessis et al., 2002). Typically, it has referred to the population living outside settlements of 1,000 or more inhabitants. The current definition states that census rural is the population outside settlements with 1,000 or more population with a population density of 400 or more inhabitants per square kilometre (Statistics Canada, 2007).
Rural and Small Town (RST) refers to areas outside Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) and Census Agglomerations (CAs). A CMA has a total population of 100,000 or more with 50,000 or more in the urban core and a CA has an urban core of 10,000 or more. Both CMAs and CAs include neighbouring towns and municipalities where 50% of more of the workforce commutes to the urban core (Statistics Canada, 2007). The term Larger Urban Centre (LUC) refers to both CMAs and CAs. In 2001, there were 471 towns and municipalities (census subdivisions) classified as part of one of Canada's 27 CMAs and there were 524 towns and municipalities classified as part of one of the 113 CAs in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2002, Table 1 and Table 3).
Metropolitan Influenced Zone (MIZ): The RST population may be disaggregated according to the degree of influence of larger urban centres (du Plessis et al. 2002, McNiven et al. 2000). Towns and municipalities (i.e. census subdivisions) are classified according to the share of workers who commute to a larger urban centre. The categories are Strong MIZ(where 30% or more of the workforce commutes to an urban core), Moderate MIZ(where 5% to 29% commute to any urban core); Weak MIZ(where greater than 0% but less than 5% commute to any urban core) and No MIZ(where there are no residents commuting to an urban core).
Predominantly rural regions: The OECD (1994) defined a "predominantly rural region" as having more than 50% of the population living in rural communities where a "rural community" has a population density less than 150 persons per square kilometre. In Canada, the census division has been used to represent "regions" and census consolidated sub-divisions have been used to represent "communities". Intermediate regions have 15% to 49% of their population living in a rural community. Predominantly urban regions have less than 15% of their population living in a rural community. Predominantly rural regions are classified as rural metro-adjacent, rural non-metro-adjacent and rural northern, following Ehrensaft and Beeman (1992). Rural metro-adjacent regions are predominantly rural census divisions which are adjacent to metropolitan centres while rural non-metro-adjacent regions are those predominantly rural census divisions which are not adjacent to metropolitan centres. Rural northern regions are predominantly rural census divisions that are found either entirely or mostly above the following lines of parallel in each province: Newfoundland and Labrador, 50th; Quebec and Ontario, 54th; Manitoba, 53rd; Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, 54th. As well, rural northern regions encompass all of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Du Plessis et al. (2001) emphasize that the choice of the definition of rural by an analyst should be determined by the topic being addressed. A rural definition based on small building blocks (i.e. each geographic unit that is assigned as "rural") should be used for the analysis of issues requiring a local solution. Examples might include day care services or quality of local well water (but, of course, sometimes these issues are managed at different scales in different situations). The delineation of census urban and census rural uses small geographic units.
A rural definition where incorporated towns and municipalities are delineated as urban or rural should be used for the analysis of issues that are the responsibility of towns and municipalities. Suggested examples might be the provision of roads and libraries (but, again, sometimes these issues are managed at different scales in different situations). The RST definition is delineated by assigning complete towns and municipalities as RST.
A rural definition where regions (i.e. groups of communities, towns or municipalities) are classified as urban or rural should be used for the analysis of regional issues. Economic development and labour market issues (e.g. training programs) are regional issues because individuals can commute from one community to another. Thus, groups of communities would be expected to work together to promote mutual economic development and to improve their shared workforce. The OECD definition classifies regions as predominantly urban, intermediate or predominantly rural regions.
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