Cape Breton pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to de­cline

New cen­sus fig­ures re­veal that Canada sur­passes 35-mil­lion mark

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA

The num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing on Cape Breton Is­land con­tin­ued its de­cline over the past five years, ac­cord­ing to 2016 cen­sus fig­ures re­leased to­day by Sta­tis­tics Canada.

The data, com­piled on May 10 of last year, lists the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion at 132,010, down from the 2011 cen­sus that counted 135,974 peo­ple liv­ing on this side of the Canso Cause­way,

On the more heav­ily pop­u­lated east side of the is­land, the pop­u­la­tion of Cape Breton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is re­ported to be 98,722, down 2.9 per cent from the pre­vi­ous cen­sus that recorded 101,619 peo­ple in the CBRM. Doug Lion­ais, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Cape Breton Uni­ver­sity’s Shan­non School of Busi­ness, said the area’s de­clin- ing pop­u­la­tion is, in large part, at­trib­ut­able to the loss of key in­dus­tries over the past cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions and the lure of work in Western Canada. And, he said there is no quick fix to the prob­lem of Cape Breton’s shrink­ing pop­u­lace.

“The forces that lead to this sort of pop­u­la­tion de­cline are big forces and they are not eas­ily turned around,” said Lion­ais, who has a spe­cial in­ter­est in busi­ness devel­op­ment in de­pleted com­mu­ni­ties.

“To a large ex­tent, we’re still deal­ing with the death of our in­dus­tries, so in some ways it is un­rea­son­able to ex­pect that we should have turned this around al­ready.”

And he sug­gested that while CBRM’s ideal pop­u­la­tion may turn out to be less than it is now, the area is a long way from dis­ap­pear­ing off the map.

“The CBRM is the sec­ond largest com­mu­nity in Nova Sco­tia and it’s not as if we are a sin­gle in­dus­try town that’s just go­ing to dis­ap­pear with the last to leave turn­ing out the lights,” said Lion­ais. “There’s still lots left here and it’s sim­ply a ques­tion of where we’re go­ing to land and what di­rec­tion are we go­ing to take.”

CBRM Mayor Ce­cil Clarke agreed that there’s still plenty to be op­ti­mistic about in terms of the area’s fu­ture. But he said it’s go­ing to take the col­lec­tive hard work and co-op­er­a­tion of govern­ment, busi­ness and the com­mu­ni­ties.

“Reach­ing a point of pop­u­la­tion sta­bil­ity with stronger pros­per­ity is not out of our reach,” said Clarke, adding that the 2014 Ivany Re­port stressed the im­por­tance of the CBRM’s “ocean ad­van­tage” and of keep­ing young peo­ple in the area.

“We have a world-class har­bour and tourism, our cre­ative in­dus­tries and nat­u­ral re­sources are find­ing new and in­no­va­tive ways to reach global mar­kets, and the next gen­er­a­tion’s en­trepreneur­ship is bring new ideas to life.”

A notable ex­cep­tion to the area’s de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion is Cape Breton’s Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties. Fig­ures show that all five com­mu­ni­ties now have more peo­ple than they did in the 2011 cen­sus. Com­bined, the num­ber of is­land Mi’kmaw in­creased from 6,020 to 6,311. The largest First Na­tions com­mu­nity, Eska­soni, saw its pop­u­la­tion in­crease from 3,309 to 3,422.

Na­tion­ally, the pop­u­lace con­tin­ued its western mi­gra­tion as Canada’s pop­u­la­tion reached 35,151,728, a five per cent in­crease from 2011. Ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas such as Cal­gary (1,392,609) and Ed­mon­ton (1,321,426) con­tin­ued to lead the na­tion in pop­u­la­tion growth, as the for­mer sur­passed Ot­tawa-Gatineau to be­come the fourth largest pop­u­la­tion cen­tre in the coun­try. Metropoli­tan Toronto has Canada’s largest pop­u­la­tion at 5,928,040.

Nova Sco­tia ex­pe­ri­enced a very slight in­crease (0.2 per cent) go­ing from 921,727 in 2011 to 923,598 in 2016. Al­berta had the high­est growth rate (11.6 per cent) as the Wild Rose prov­ince ex­ceeded four mil­lion peo­ple for the first time. Con­versely, New Brunswick was the only prov­ince to have a net loss as its pop­u­la­tion fell from 751,171 to 747,101 over the past five years.



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