Rural Ontario Leaders Awards
Program Guide 2017

Deadline: November 15, 2017 is the due date for applications. Electronic applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. EST and hard copy applications must be postmarked by the deadline date to be accepted.

Table of Contents


Rural communities are an essential part of our cultural and economic fabric and the Ontario government is committed to ensuring they remain vibrant places where our children can learn, grow, work and play.

Strong rural communities help create good jobs, attract investment and promote new economic opportunities for their residents and businesses.

Celebrating innovative leadership that keeps rural communities economically, socially and environmentally vibrant is a priority for the government of Ontario.

That is why the Ontario government created the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards.

Every two years, this program will recognize outstanding leadership in the area of rural economic development that supports one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Training and skills development
  • Entrepreneurship and local employment
  • Strong social infrastructure
  • Civic engagement

The Rural Ontario Leaders Awards has five streams with up to one winner in each of the following categories:

  • Individual (25 years of age and older)
  • Individual -Youth (24 years of age and younger)
  • Community (lower-tier municipality, Indigenous community)
  • Business
  • Not-for-profit/non-government organization

Recipients in their award category receive:

  • A Rural Ontario Leaders Awards plaque
  • An invitation to attend the awards reception at the Rural Ontario Summit in February 2018
  • Award recipients will also receive a media kit detailing recipient achievements in multiple formats and the use of the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards wordmark to support their marketing and promotional efforts.

The recipients of the 2017 awards will be announced at The Rural Ontario Summit in February 2018.


The objectives of the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards are to:

  • Recognize rural Ontario's contributions to the economy
  • Promote initiatives that contribute to the quality of life and economic well-being of rural Ontario
  • Support knowledge and technology transfer to inspire the adoption of best practices and initiatives that enable rural economic development
  • Raise awareness about rural Ontario's ability to foster a competitive and innovative business environment, and strong leadership

Eligibility Criteria

Nominees must meet the criteria for a category (a, b, c, d or e):

a) Individual Award (25 years of age and older)

  • Be a resident of Ontario
  • Must be 25 years of age or older
  • Individual applicants need not be rural residents but their leadership achievement must result in a significant benefit to rural Ontario.

b) Youth Award (individual - 24 years of age anf younger)

  • Be a resident of Ontario
  • Individual youth applicants must be 24 years of age and younger Individual youth applicants need not be rural residents but their leadership achievement must result in a significant benefit to rural Ontario.

c) Community (Municipality, Town, Village, Hamlet)

  • Only communities classified as rural (a population of less than 100 000) may be eligible for this award
  • A group of communities or a region is eligible to apply if they are collaborating for the purposes of regional planning and managing common services such as counties or former counties
  • Indigenous communities and remote northern communities are encouraged to apply for the award.

d) Business

  • Must be Ontario based with a direct relationship to rural Ontario
  • All types of businesses are eligible including:
    • Sole proprietorship
    • Corporation duly incorporated pursuant to the laws of Canada or the laws of Ontario
    • Partnership
    • Unincorporated association
  • Nominees must be in compliance with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal legislation that apply to the operation of the business.

e) Not-For-Profit/Non-Governmental Organization

  • Not-For-Profit/Non-Governmental Organization that do not operate on a sole for-profit basis and may include:
    • Registered charities
    • Religious organizations
    • Social entrepreneurships
    • Cooperatives
    • Community development agencies or organizations
    • Economic development agencies or organizations
    • Individuals affiliated with any of the above organizations

Ineligibility Criteria

Nominees are ineligible for the program if:

  • They are an employee of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
  • Individuals employed by OMAFRA who are owners of, members of, or have a controlling and/or financial interest in a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and any combination of business or organization.


Nominators can nominate more than one nominee under each stream, provided that the nominee meets the eligibility criteria. A separate application form will be required for each nomination.

Nominees and nominators must be willing to participate in interviews, site visits, photographs and video recordings at the discretion of OMAFRA or selection committees.

OMAFRA has the right to refuse an application for any reason, including but not limited to concerns with compliance, undue influence, false or misleading information.

Areas of Leadership

Leadership may include demonstrated excellence in the following:

  • Local and or regional rural economic development
  • Fostering an innovative rural economy
  • Rural community development
  • Cultural development
  • Attracting tourism
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Promoting the value of Ontario's agri-food sector
  • Working to attract Human capital
  • Youth retention

Application Process

Applications must be received either electronically or be postmarked by 5 p.m. EST on November 15, 2017. The application form can be downloaded from:

Please refer to the last page of the Application Form for options to submit your completed application.

Please ensure that you answer all questions in the application form.

Applicants and nominators are strongly encouraged to include photos (300 dpi - dots per inch) supporting the application in electronic format, if available. Print copies will be accepted. Letters of support are encouraged.

Nominees must consent to the collection of personal, business or organizational information in relation to the administration of the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards.

Nominees must consent to the disclosure of any personal information (name, job, title, etc.) collected in relation to the administration of the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards, including the publication of personal information used for the purpose of providing information about the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards.

Selection Process

The selection process for the Rural Ontario Leaders Awards recipients is as follows:

  • An acknowledgement e-mail will be sent to each nominee.
  • Applications will be reviewed for eligibility and considered by two independent review panels: (1) an internal OMAFRA panel with staff and; (2) an external panel of recognized leaders in the field of rural economic development.
  • The internal review panel will evaluate all applications and provide a short list to the external review panel.
  • The external panel will assess the selected award applications and make recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister).
  • The Minister will review the recommended applications and approve award winners in each of the five leadership categories.

Assessment Criteria

The following criteria will be used to assess applications:

  • Uniqueness and Originality - where and how the leadership initiative originated and the uniqueness of design or style used to produce positive change in rural Ontario.
  • Community Benefits - the extent to which the leadership achievement is leading to, or has led to, demonstrable positive change in rural Ontario.
  • Impact - the positive economic and/or social benefit to rural Ontario communities, businesses and development organizations.
  • Development - the extent to which the leadership initiative has been thought through to implementation.
  • Broader Use - the potential for use on a broader basis and be able to demonstrate the potential for having a positive effect if applied elsewhere in rural Ontario.

For further information, contact:

OMAFRA Agricultural Information Contact Centre: 1-877-424-1300

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 14 August 2017
Last Reviewed: 14 August 2017