© Diane Crocker
Australians John Martin and Annie Guthrie are making their way across Canada. He is working on a study of rural communities and she is documenting the trip.
John Martin is visiting 13 rural Canadian communities as part of a research project, and he’s getting to each one of them by bicycle.
Martin and his partner Annie Guthrie were in Corner Brook on Monday on their cross-Canada journey. Today they’ll be in Gander, the 13th community and the only one in Newfoundland and Labrador included in the research project.
Martin is a professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. His area of research is small rural communities.
The research project he’s currently working on is titled “Local Governance and Sustainable Rural Community Development: A Comparative Study of Canadian and Australian Experiences.”
The journey started in May in Pemberton, B.C. where the couple visited with their son and his family before Martin and Allister Walker, a friend and colleague, took to their bikes with Guthrie, a filmmaker, following to document the trip.
Martin has been cycling all his life and said using that a mode of transportation was a good way to see and learn about the country.
“I know that when you go quietly through the landscape rather than in a car or a plane you actually see things that you don’t expect to see and you learn things,” he said.
In Gander he’ll speak with Mayor Claude Elliott about the legacy of the town from 911. He plans to ask the mayor what it is about the social characteristics of Gander that people actually went out of their way to help stranded passengers.
On Friday he’ll give a presentation at Memorial University in St. John’s where he’ll talk about the question of what can central governments, provincial and federal, do to help small communities.
Martin said there are things a community can do and things central governments can do.
“A genuine partnership that’s based on mutual respect and trust is essential,” he said. “Central governments with money and authority can’t just walk in and dictate to communities. Each community is different and that requires a partnership approach and it requires a genuine negotiation for that to happen.”
He also said it is through local entrepreneurs and people who are prepared to take action that communities will make a difference.
When people see someone who’s got a good idea, who’s got some passion, who’s got some energy and some commitment to do things the question becomes, “How do you as a local mayor or as a local community support that person to do good work?”