It’s in the num­bers

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

Ev­ery five years, the re­lease of the find­ings of the lat­est na­tional head count makes for some fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing and ru­mi­nat­ing. It was no dif­fer­ent last week when Sta­tis­tics Canada be­gan rolling out the re­sults of its 2011 cen­sus.

It re­vealed that our pop­u­la­tion had grown to some 33.5 mil­lion peo­ple, mak­ing Canada the fastest grow­ing na­tion in the so-called G8, which in­cludes Canada, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan, the United King­dom, and the United States. That’s up from the 31.6 mil­lion counted in the 2006 cen­sus, or a growth rate of 5.9 per cent.

This growth has been fu­elled pri­mar­ily by im­mi­gra­tion, with oil-rich Western Canada lead­ing the way.

And un­like past counts, the pop­u­la­tion in this prov­ince is trend­ing up­wards, to­talling 514,536 in 2011. That’s a 1.8 per cent in­crease from the last cen­sus in 2006, mark­ing the first time this prov­ince has recorded a pop­u­la­tion growth since 1986.

Like Western Canada, this re­ver­sal can be at­trib­uted to our de­pen­dence on petroleum pro­duc­tion, which has helped fuel a spend­ing boom in the this prov­ince in re­cent years, with record in­vest­ment into sec­tors such as health care, ed­u­ca­tion and in­fra­struc­ture.

The pop­u­la­tion num­bers show a dra­matic shift in pop­u­la­tion to the north­east Avalon, with the Town of Par­adise, for ex­am­ple, re­port­ing a whopping 40 per cent growth in pop­u­la­tion.

But the hol­low­ing out of ru­ral New­found­land doesn’t ap­pear to be tak­ing too much of a bite out of the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion, where, ac­cord­ing to our cal­cu­la­tions, in­cor­po­rated towns in this area saw a slight in­crease in the com­bined pop­u­la­tion, near­ing the 30,000 mark. This growth is be­ing pro­pelled pri­mar­ily by three neigh­bour­ing towns — Clarke’s Beach, Bay Roberts and Spa­niard’s Bay.

While Car­bon­ear, the so-called Hub of the Bay, saw only a slight in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, Bay Roberts grew by an im­pres­sive 7.5 per cent. As such, there are now 1,000 more peo­ple liv­ing in Bay Roberts than there are in Car­bon­ear.

And while Clarke’s Beach grew by 8.3 per cent, Vic­to­ria re­ported a de­cline of 0.3 per cent, and Salmon Cove’s pop­u­la­tion shrunk by nearly two per cent. What should we make of this? In sim­ple terms, you could say that towns lo­cated closer to the Trans-canada High­way, and there­fore the boom­ing St. John’s met­ro­pol­i­tan area, are fair­ing much bet­ter. This closer prox­im­ity to St. John’s makes it eas­ier to work and avail of ameni­ties and ser­vices in the cap­i­tal city, while still en­joy­ing a ru­ral way of life.

One only needs to take no­tice of the many hun­dreds of ve­hi­cles that roll out of this re­gion each week­day morn­ing, filled with peo­ple mak­ing their way to their places of work in St. John’s. It’s eas­ier to do this if you live in Bay Roberts, for ex­am­ple, than if you live fur­ther north in a town such as Har­bour Grace.

In light of this, com­mu­nity and busi­ness lead­ers in the Car­bon­ear area rec­og­nize they have to work even harder to pro­mote eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. This ef­fort took an im­por­tant step ear­lier this month when Car­bon­ear un­veiled a new brand­ing and mar­ket­ing strat­egy, one aimed pri­mar­ily at at­tract­ing new in­vest­ment in the area.

It’s a known fact that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with stag­nant and shrink­ing pop­u­la­tions will find it harder and harder to main­tain in­fra­struc­ture and pro­vide the ba­sic ser­vices. That’s why it’s im­por­tant to use the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the lat­est cen­sus as fuel to ig­nite a fire that churns out more ideas and strate­gies aimed at strength­en­ing and build­ing com­mu­ni­ties through­out the re­gion.

Car­bon­ear en­tre­pre­neur Frank Butt, for ex­am­ple, who is lead­ing an ef­fort to form a cham­ber of com­merce in the town, is on the right track, and should be com­mended and en­cour­aged.

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