Research Projects

Resource Royalties: Returns to Resource Producing Rural Regions

2015 ongoing

At UNBC, our CRC team is engaging with our partner Sean Markey (SFU) and several international colleagues to analyze how different resource royalty regimes impact the community and economic development in remote rural resource producing regions. The team includes universities in Canada, Australia, and Norway. The focus is on how national or sub-national governments in collect resource royalties and redistribute these funds back into resource producing regions.

Rural Policy Learning Commons

2014 ongoing

This new project networks scholars, politicians, researchers, and citizens to share and extend existing research knowledge, increase opportunities to exchange insights, build a cohort of highly qualified researchers and policy analysts, mobilize this knowledge to the wider population, and increase our capacity to develop appropriate policy for rural and northern conditions. At UNBC, our CRC team is participating in three themes, including distance learning, human capital and migration, and infrastructure and services.

Our smart services infrastructure project will identify key benefits and lessons for developing smart, efficient service infrastructure that can enhance the capacity and resiliency of rural and small town places.  Developing an understanding of these lessons is critically important as many organizations and communities respond to ongoing social, economic, and political restructuring with fewer human and financial resources.

The reports below examine the best practices and key issues that must be considered by non-profits, local governments, businesses, and senior governments who wish to strengthen shared service and infrastructure arrangements. Our focus explored multi-purpose or co-location initiatives, service co-operatives, and multi-service or one-stop shop facilities. Several key messages emerged from the research that can be used to inform supportive policies and investments to strengthen the renewal of small communities.

Project reports include:

International Collaboration Research Group to Examine Rural and Regional Restructuring

2014 - 2017 COMPLETED

This international research group is examining the restructuring of rural resource regions.  Within this initiative, several important questions are being explored including how global-local linkages are changing and creating challenges and opportunities for rural regions.  It is also bringing together an international team to examine new labour arrangements and how rural communities are preparing for, and responding to, these new arrangements.  

Publications include:

On the Move: Employment-Related Geographical Mobility in the Canadian Context

2012 ongoing

The On the Move Partnership is a 7-year study that includes more than 45 researchers from 17 disciplines and 24 universities across Canada and internationally, working with more than 30 community partners to carry out research on labour mobility across many sectors ( This partnership will produce the first comprehensive study of the spectrum of employment-related mobility in Canada from extended daily travel to long distance travel and related absence from home.

The increasing prevalence of mobile workers who travel long distances to work presents opportunities and challenges for communities in resource-dependent regions. In northern BC, our team is examining issues impacting mobile workers across the exploration, construction, and operational phases of industrial development.  The team is also exploring community impacts associated with mobile workforces in both home (where workers live) and host (where workers commute to work) communities. Our research is focused on:

  • Understanding the experiences of, and provision of support available to, mobile workers;
  • How mobile labour shapes the work place culture / environment;
  • How commuting impacts mobile workers’ family and social networks;
  • How communities prepare for, and manage, the presence of mobile workers;
  • How communities seize opportunities presented through the presence of mobile workers; and
  • Factors that influence pathways for mobile work.

The reports below were completed with the goal to track changes, pressures, and actions relevant to decision-making over community planning, infrastructure investments, labour practice, and policies.

Policy briefs include:

Project reports about impacts on mobile workers include:

Project reports about community impacts include:

Tracking the Social and Economic Transformation Process in Kitimat, BC

2011 - 2017 COMPLETED

When industrial investments come to small communities, the local social impacts can be significant and transformative.  The town of Kitimat has been an industrial centre in northwestern British Columbia since the early 1950s.  The town is now experiencing a large number of industrial construction projects that will change and renew the local economy.  These construction projects will also impact and change the community.  This project involves a long-term tracking study of the economic and social transformation processes now getting underway in Kitimat, BC.

Final project reports:

2013 reports include:

2014 reports include:

2015 reports include:

Working ‘away’: Community & Family Impacts of Long Distance Labour Commuting in Mackenzie, BC

2011 - 2012

The town of Mackenzie is one of BC’s  ‘instant towns’, built in the late 1960s to house the workforce for a new regional forest industry. A significant economic downturn in Mackenzie beginning in early 2008 resulted in the closure of all major forest industry operations (sawmills and pulp and paper mills) in the community.  As a result, some of these forest sector workers had to engage in long distance labour commuting (LDLC).  This project provides an opportunity to explore the implications of LDLC at both an individual and community level.  The first part of the project occurred in Sept/Oct 2011, with meetings were held in Mackenzie to assess the scope, scale, implications, and experiences of long distance labour commuting for workers, their families, community groups, and the local business community.

Part two of the project occurred in May/June 2012, with a household survey to assess the scale and scope of LDLC.  Interviews were also completed with workers to explore the motivations behind different pathways that workers take to either continue with, or to stop, their engagement with LDLC, as well as to explore the contributions that LDLC can bring to enhance community capacity as workers return to Mackenzie and apply new lessons and insights to their workplace.  We also spoke with community organizations to explore how LDLC has shaped their program needs and operations.

Project reports include:

The Transformative Role of Voluntarism in Aging Resource Communities


This SSHRC project is based out of UNBC in collaboration with researchers at Trent University and the University of Guelph in Ontario.  The project examines the role that voluntary organizations, community groups and volunteers play in both supporting older people and in influencing community development in aging resource communities. Addressing service gaps is important, especially in the unique context of Canada’s resource hinterland where the social dynamics of economic restructuring have created the relatively new phenomenon of ‘resource frontier aging’ in communities that have never dealt with population aging before. Drawing upon research in Quesnel and Tumbler Ridge, this study looks to learn more about the potential of the voluntary sector as both a personal and community level response to the opportunities and challenges of population aging in resource communities.

In 2011, reports were completed to provide preliminary information about the dimensions of voluntarism in two pilot study towns. These communities include Quesnel and Tumbler Ridge.  In 2013, profiles were created for a series of voluntary sector initiatives in these communities.  The goal was to explore a range of roles in the voluntary sector and in community development in order to explore how seniors’ engagement and voluntary initiatives are reshaping and changing these communities.

2013 project reports include:

2011 project reports include:

(Re)Defining poverty in resource dependent rural and small town places

2011 - 2012

Poverty remains an important, but challenging research, policy, and lived world issue.  It is found in all communities – in all regions.  In Canada, most poverty research has been urban focused and our knowledge about the dynamics, experiences, and complex underpinnings of rural poverty is more limited.  Since the early 1980s, Canadian rural and small town places have experienced accelerated change due to economic and social restructuring.  These have generated new pressures and trends that affect those living on low-income and households at risk of living in poverty. These impacts are especially important in resource-based economies and those places located at a distance from major urban centres.

Based on a pilot study in the McBride and surrounding region, this project explores how key factors, attributes of place, and institutional processes affect rural household journeys into and out of poverty.  This includes exploring interactions between low-income households and service support networks to develop a greater understanding of emerging issues for households in resource-dependent towns undergoing intense economic and service restructuring.

NEV2 - Updating Our Northern BC Development Vision and Strategy Project

2009-2012 COMPLETED

The economic downturn is forcing public and private sector interests to make difficult choices and adopt what they think are the best coping strategies so that they are poised, equipped, and ready to take advantage of the next economic upswing. In partnership with selected small local governments in northern BC, we will explore:

  • recommendations on how small local governments can and should respond to dramatic economic change 
  • the impacts of those choices / decisions as the economy begins to recover
  • the choices and decisions being made in response to the 2008/2009 economic downturn

Project reports:

Northern BC Economic Development Vision and Strategy Project


The Northern BC Economic Development Vision and Strategy Project coordinated a set of meetings across northern BC to collect input and recommendations from a diverse set of stakeholder groups. Through a series of individual interviews and facilitated workshops, this input focused on the key issues of a northern vision, supportive policy development, community and infrastructure investment, and regional coordination.

The project undertook a community driven process that reviewed key challenges and opportunities relative to the economic development and diversification of northern BC communities. The final report identified a framework for action aimed at creating the mechanisms necessary to engage, mobilize, and coordinate key resources and stakeholders for the creation of a northern economic development strategy. Since completion, many of the report recommendations have been enacted by various levels of government.

Funding for the project came from Western Economic Diversification.

For more details:

From Planning to Action: Reconciling Community Development Strategies with Regional Assets and Infrastructure


The purpose of this project is to produce information that will help to overcome a persistent barrier in economic development planning: the gap between planning and implementation.  Across northern BC, people have told the research team that their communities are frustrated by being “studied to death” while not seeing their efforts translated into viable action.  The findings and ongoing research associated with the Northern BC Economic Development Vision and Strategy Project illustrate that there are two significant gaps that contribute to this impasse: 1) community economic development options, plans, and strategies fail to adequately address and integrate the capabilities and capacities of the local and regional infrastructure and assets; and 2) proposed strategies fail to adequately comprehend or consider practical questions of competitive advantage, on their own and in association with a more regional approach.  The project used a case study approach to explore this gap between planning and implementation with a view to demonstrating how to reconcile local/regional assets and aspirations with the array of economic development possibilities.

Tumbler Ridge Community Transition Study


The community of Tumbler Ridge is in a state of transition.  Rapid changes since the March 2000 announcement of the Quintette mine closure are being undertaken as part of a community revitilisation strategy.  During the transition, informaition on the makeup and needs of local residents will be useful to a range of groups, service providers and decision-makers in Tumbler Ridge.  This need for timely and relevant information about how the community is changing has been made more urgent as a result of a second round of playoffs involving Quintette's reclamation crew and the success of the Tumbler Ridge Housing Corporation's sale of properties.   

Types of information needed during this transition include socio-economic profiles of residents to see how the town is changing, identification of program and activity needs for the recreation centre and for local service providers (especially unmet needs), patterns of housing use, a review of community quality of life issues, and patterns of local participation by residents. People and groups in Tumbler Ridge are interested in this survey because of the information they need to adjust to changing local circumstances.

As a result of pressures associated with community transition, a questionnaire survey of residents and property owners was undertaken in the fall of 2001. The questionnaire process was developed in concert with a number of partners including the District of Tumbler Ridge, the Tumbler Ridge Employment Development Services Committee, the Community Transition Branch in the Local Government Department of the Provincial Ministry of Community, Aboriginal, and Women's Services, and the University of Northern British Columbia's Northern Land Use Institute.  The questionnaire was carried out under the direction of Greg Halseth of the Geography Program at the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more details: Reports of the Tumbler Ridge Community Transition Study

New Rural Economy Project - Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation


Under this initiative, 15 university researchers (across Canada) are joining with rural people and policy makers to help build capacity in rural Canada.  Their research and education projects pursue four themes relevant to rural society: communications, environment, services, and governance.  

2003 Northwest Shopping Study


The University of Northern British Columbia's Rural and Small Town Studies Program works with residents, service providers, voluntary organisations, business organisations, and decision makers to identify factors that contribute to the changing social and economic nature of rural and small town places in British Columbia.  This study focuses upon three key aspects of local economies including changing residential and employment patterns, chanding shopping patterns, and economic leakage.  In particular, this research explores shopping and commuting patterns in the Northwest region of B.C. with a specific focus upon Kitimat, Prince Rupert, and Terrace.

Over the past thirty years, transportation infrastructure has been greatly improved in northern B.C. With these improvements, and an increase in alternative media and communication methods, the rural and small town retail landscape is changing. Consumers are choosing to shop in other communities (out-shopping) where they perceive the shopping may be better or they use alternative methods, such as the Internet, to purchase goods. This ‘extra-community’ commuting for shopping results in economic leakage where wages earned in one town may be spent on goods and services in another town. Studies have shown that the availability of goods and services, perceptions about local shopping services, and community satisfaction are important in shopping behaviours.

This report provides information to help residents, businesses, service providers, and policy makers of each community adjust to changing circumstances. This research is funded by the Canada Research Chair in Rural and Small Town Studies. The work was carried out under the direction of Greg Halseth of the Geography Program at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Robson/Canoe Valleys - Services and Community Development Project 


One of the key sources of historical information used by the Rural and Small Town Studies Team are local newspapers. For this project we read all the editions of the papers we could get a hold of and identified issues and stories for later references and analysis. In the Robson and Canoe valleys we used the time period 1970 to 2002 to frame our research. The year 1970 is about 10 years before the recession of the early 1980s, a point in time considered by many to have marked a turning point in B.C.'s resource economy.  For this time period we read through available editions of the:

  • Robson Valley Courier
  • Canoe Mountain Echo
  • Valley Sentinel

In this process, we recorded article topics and headlines, by date and by page number. This report includes a summary list of that newspaper information and we are pleased to make it available to the people of the Robson and Canoe valleys. We hope that it can be a useful starting point for research into issues from the recent past.