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• As the Terrace, BC example indicated, the question of common goods and community benefits is inherently tied to the definition and delineation of the community. Maybe all the potentially profitable activities are located just outside the boundary of a town, in sparsely populated rural areas under a different local government. Maybe they are located there because of lower taxes, possible because the rural government doesn’t have to deliver many services and is profiting from the bigger town. In such case, there is a good argument to redraw boundaries. For smaller towns, this can be an uphill battle, especially when the external rural municipality has political backing higher up. For larger cities, annexation can work, although as a governance instrument, annexation is blunt and potentially destabilizing in the community. •

Image: Stéphane Lavoie. Old Atlas Coal Mine. Drumheller, AB

Related to the conservative, or lower taxes, version of the tax story, but broader, is the neoliberal ideology of deregulation. It suggests that all regulation, meaning all formal institutions, stands in the way of development, and places in a slump can use deregulation to kick start community prosperity. In the history of the Canadian West, this narrative and this strategy suggestion could often be heard, and was often linked to a nostalgic mythology of the frontier, an idea that past prosperity was possible because of low regulation, and that getting rid of later layering of rules would bring back that prosperity.

Drumheller, Alberta experienced an economic peak in the 1940s, having exported nearly sixty million tons of coal since the early 1910s, over the duration of its “coal years”. During this period, companies, the major actors within the town, were resistant to the establishment of schools, community entities, etc., because of the perceived lack of return on investment. They “failed to see the point” in investing in facilities; there was an awareness of the impending “busts” and depleting leases.

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Boom and Bust: a guide

Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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