Why should we pay higher power rates to cover the cost of pro­grams to get peo­ple to con­serve power?

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

Like the weather, ev­ery­body’s talk­ing about Nova Sco­tia’s loom­ing de­mo­graphic crunch but no­body’s do­ing much about it. A con­fer­ence last week in Wolfville, organized by the Union of Nova Sco­tia Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along with cham­bers of com­merce and re­gional de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties, sought to bring some ur­gency to the is­sue from an eco­nomic point of view and to move se­nior gov­ern­ment into act­ing on some spe­cific mea­sures.

Ear­lier this week, the pro­vin­cial min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for both ed­u­ca­tion and work­force de­vel­op­ment, Marilyn More, ad­dressed a Hal­i­fax busi­ness au­di­ence on some of the same themes, un­der­lin­ing the need for a bet­ter match be­tween avail­able jobs and the skills of Nova Sco­tians. More said prob­lems re­sult­ing from Nova Sco­tia’s rapid pop­u­la­tion ag­ing and pro­jected work­force shrink­age are made worse by a lack of “suf­fi­cient skills, learn­ing or ex­pe­ri­ence for many of the po­si­tions that are com­ing va­cant.”

For a Cape Bre­toner con­di­tioned by decades of job short­ages, it’s es­pe­cially hard to flip to the op­po­site view. But if the ex­perts know what they’re talk­ing about, the crunch will hit here as well. In fact, the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has been on the lead­ing edge of the de­mo­graphic changes that are now alarm­ing busi­ness peo­ple, ed­u­ca­tors and pol­icy-mak­ers on the main­land and through­out the At­lantic re­gion.

Th­ese is­sues have never been tack­led in a com­pre­hen­sive way in Cape Bre­ton. Now we’re about to see whether the change in scale makes any dif­fer­ence in the way gov­ern­ments, busi­ness and in­sti­tu­tions re­spond.

Many of the pro­jec­tions for Nova Sco­tia are dra­matic. Al­ready the prov­ince with the high­est pro­por­tion of se­niors at 15.4 per cent, Nova Sco­tia in about 15 years will have 70 per cent more se­niors and 30 per cent fewer home­grown stu­dents in both the schools and the uni­ver­si­ties. Tens of thou­sands will be re­tir­ing an­nu­ally and the pop­u­la­tion will dip by five per cent by 2026.

The im­pli­ca­tions for the eco­nomic and so­cial health of the prov­ince are pro­found. As noted re­gional pol­icy guru Jim McNiven put it in Wolfville, call­ing the de­vel­op­ing labour short­age Nova Sco­tia’s No. 1 eco­nomic prob­lem: “Ba­si­cally, if we run out of labour, it will stop eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in the prov­ince.”

There is no sin­gle so­lu­tion – not im­mi­gra­tion, not the ad­vance­ment of na­tive and other mi­nor­ity youth in ed­u­ca­tion and jobs, not de­layed re­tire­ment, not pro­duc­tiv­ity im­prove­ment through tech­nol­ogy and train­ing. But th­ese and other el­e­ments must all be part of manag­ing through the de­mo­graphic bot­tle­neck that lies ahead.

It’s not all bleak. We’ll need bet­ter jobs, higher skilled and higher paid, and em­ploy­ers will have to cater to the life­style needs of their peo­ple with flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments and ser­vices such as child care. Peo­ple now on the mar­gins, such as mi­nori­ties and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, will have to be wel­comed into the econ­omy.

To come out on the up side will re­quire an un­prece­dented lev­els of co-op­er­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity among all sec­tors of Nova Sco­tia so­ci­ety.

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