YOU SAID IT
Nova Scotia’s population projected to decline nearly five per cent by 2026
“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