YOU SAID IT

Nova Sco­tia’s pop­u­la­tion pro­jected to de­cline nearly five per cent by 2026

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

“We have not done a good job of wel­com­ing im­mi­grants.”

SYD­NEY — A move by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, re­gional de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties and cham­bers of com­merce to col­lab­o­ra­tively tackle the prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion de­cline is a good first step, the pres­i­dent of the Union of Nova Sco­tia Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties says.

The Nova Sco­tia As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­i­ties, the UNSM and the Nova Sco­tia Cham­bers of Com­merce held a pop­u­la­tion fo­rum in Wolfville last week, with about 160 peo­ple at­tend­ing. The fo­rum, chaired by Port Hawkes­bury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean, is in­tended to be the first of many times that they will come to­gether to learn more about the po­ten­tial ef­fects of the prov­ince’s sig­nif­i­cant fore­cast pop­u­la­tion de­cline and worker short­age.

Clarence Prince, UNSM pres­i­dent and mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lor for Syd­ney Mines, said he did not at­tend the con­fer­ence but he has spo­ken with both MacLean and Guys­bor­ough War­den Lloyd Hines.

“It just goes to show the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion, it could af­fect the tax base be­cause of lower earn­ings and if you don’t have any new blood or im­mi­grants com­ing in, those are the chal­lenges that we’re go­ing to face in the fu­ture,” he said.

MacLean noted that con­fer­ence pre­sen­ters demon­strated that the prov­ince is in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion and un­less peo­ple are en­cour­aged to re­main in the work­force longer the pend­ing labour short­age will have a dra­matic im­pact on the Nova Sco­tia econ­omy. But in or­der to keep peo­ple work­ing longer, they need to re­main healthy, he said, and that will re­quire an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram aimed at se­niors.

A com­mit­tee is now an­a­lyz­ing the ideas sug­gested at the con­fer­ence and a re­port is ex­pected within two weeks, MacLean said. A num­ber of so­lu­tions were dis­cussed dur­ing the fo­rum, in­clud­ing find­ing new ways to re­tain im­mi­grants and older work­ers.

It’s im­por­tant to stop the drift of peo­ple from ru­ral ar­eas to the cities, MacLean said. In or­der to re­tain and at­tract peo­ple, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties need to have the recre­ational and so­cial in­fra­struc­ture that will ap­peal to them and also must up­grade med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. They should also pro­mote the ameni­ties that they can of­fer and qual­ity of life is­sues.

Strate­gies to at­tract im­mi­grants are also an im­por­tant piece of the puz­zle, MacLean said.

“ We have not done a good job of wel­com­ing im­mi­grants,” he said.

It’s pro­jected that the prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion will de­cline nearly five per cent by 2026 to 895,000 peo­ple, with a 31.5 per cent de­cline in pri­mary and secondary school-aged chil­dren, and a 29.8 per cent de­cline in the uni­ver­sity-aged pop­u­la­tion.

Cur­rently, 36 per cent of Nova Sco­tia’s pop­u­la­tion is over the age of 50. By 2021, that fig­ure is pro­jected to jump to 45 per cent. Nova Sco­tia al­ready has the high­est pro­por­tion of se­niors in the coun­try at 15.4 per cent.

Nova Sco­tia’s share of na­tional im­mi­gra­tion in­flows has dropped by half since the 1970s.

Prince noted the groups have promised to open the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and share in­for­ma­tion, and share strate­gies.

“It seemed like, mu­nic­i­pally, we were try­ing to gather in­for­ma­tion and pos­si­bly work alone, not that that was our in­tent ... at least there’s a recog­ni­tion now that we have to join forces to beat this or try to com­bat this prob­lem,” he said.

There’s greater recog­ni­tion that it’s a prob­lem fac­ing many com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince, es­pe­cially ru­ral ar­eas, he added.

We have not done a good job of wel­com­ing im­mi­grants. Billy Joe MacLean, Port Hawkes­bury

mayor

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