Chal­lenges for New­found­land and Labrador con­tinue

Vi­tal Signs re­port for New­found­land and Labrador shows no “quick fix” for sys­temic prob­lems

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY DAVID MA­HER david.ma­her@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: DavidMa­herNL

High health­care ex­penses, a wan­ing, ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, and a slow econ­omy show con­tin­ued need for in­no­va­tion to get through the prob­lems fac­ing New­found­land and Labrador.

The fifth an­nual Vi­tal Signs re­port, is­sued by Memo­rial Univer­sity’s Har­ris Cen­tre, gives a snap­shot of what’s hap­pen­ing in the prov­ince.

Look­ing at the eco­nom­ics, the re­port shows a higher house­hold in­come of $77,071 in 2017, com­pared to $69,685 in 2012.

But av­er­age house­hold sav­ings has also shown a drop: $6,170 in 2012 down to $2,705 in 2017.

Rob Green­wood, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Har­ris Cen­tre, says higher house­hold wages, but sig­nif­i­cantly lower sav­ings shows eco­nomic trou­bles “com­ing home to roost” for fam­i­lies in the prov­ince.

“We re­ally did have a pe­riod there where the ris­ing tide did raise al­most all boats. Econ­o­mists use the term eco­nomic ex­u­ber­ance,” said Green­wood.

“Hu­man be­ings, you know, we’re com­pli­cated but we’re also pre­dictable. When times are go­ing great, we just seem to think it’s go­ing to keep go­ing that way.”

Break­ing down the av­er­age per­sonal in­come by de­mo­graph­ics, men made an av­er­age in­come of $56,724 in 2016, com­pared to $34,259 for women. In­dige­nous peo­ples made an av­er­age of $40,528 in 2016, while im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions took home an av­er­age an­nual in­come of $67,644.

Green­wood says the eco­nomic down­turn has shown some pos­i­tive signs as well, par­tic­u­larly when look­ing at the lo­cal start-up and en­trepreneurial com­mu­nity.

“Ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion. If young peo­ple can come out of univer­sity and go straight into a six-fig­ure job, fewer of them are go­ing to think about start­ing a busi­ness,” said Green­wood.

“We’re see­ing in­no­va­tions. We’re see­ing start-ups. The com­mu­nity that goes to the hack­ing events around soft­ware, the hack­ing health ini­tia­tive, the Gen­e­sis Cen­tre, they’re all boom­ing.”

Health­care

High pre­scrip­tion rates ap­pear to cor­re­spond with high health­care costs in the prov­ince.

For ev­ery 1,000 peo­ple, 955 of New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans were pre­scribed some kind of an­tibi­otic in 2016, com­pared to 625 out of 1,000 as the na­tional av­er­age.

While the cost of a stan­dard hospi­tal stay is gen­er­ally con­sis­tent with the na­tional av­er­age ($6,060 in NL com­pared with $5,992 in the rest of Canada), per-capita spend­ing is very high: $4,912 in this prov­ince, com­pared to $3,970 as the na­tional av­er­age.

De­mo­graph­ics

Look­ing at pop­u­la­tion in the prov­ince, the to­tal pop­u­la­tion is still higher than it was in 2011 (514,526) com­pared to the 2016 fig­ure (519,716).

Most re­gions of the prov­ince saw a de­cline in pop­u­la­tion de­cline from 2011 to 2016, with ma­jor cen­tres see­ing in­crease (North­east Avalon, Deer Lake-Jack­son’s Arm, Cen­tral Labrador, Gan­der-Gambo, and Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion Bay), while ru­ral ar­eas of the prov­ince has shown a de­crease.

The to­tal im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion of the prov­ince also showed an in­crease over that time pe­riod: 9,160 in 2011, 12,080 in 2016.

Green­wood says what’s not quite rep­re­sented is the re­cent trend of out­mi­gra­tion in the prov­ince. He says we’re go­ing to have to adapt to that re­al­ity, if we can’t re­verse the trend.

“When you look at the over­all changes in fer­til­ity rates, the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and the pro­jec­tions as a re­sult re­gion-byre­gion, I com­pare it to cli­mate change,” said Green­wood.

“We need to do what we can with mit­i­ga­tion, but for the most part the horse has left the barn. Adap­ta­tion in cli­mate change is es­sen­tial. The same thing with pop­u­la­tion change. Yes, mit­i­ga­tion, let’s have more fam­i­lyfriendly poli­cies. But, man, we need to re­ally em­pha­size how all the pop­u­la­tion can be more pro­duc­tive, more in­no­va­tive and do more with less.”

Green­wood hopes the Vi­tal Signs re­port can spark con­ver­sa­tion and in­no­va­tion about the chal­lenges fac­ing the prov­ince. While the re­port is not pre­scrip­tive, by spark­ing con­ver­sa­tion, Green­wood says the pub­lic and pol­icy mak­ers can come to­gether to sold the chal­lenges ahead.

SaltWire Net­work publi­ca­tions The Tele­gram and West­ern Star are a me­dia spon­sor of the Vi­tal Signs re­port. Fund­ing part­ners are Cros­bie Group Ltd., New­found­land and Labrador Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Women En­trepreneurs, Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties New­found­land and Labrador, Memo­rial Univer­sity, Choices for Youth, Wood­ward Group, PAL Aero­space, and YMCA of New­found­land and Labrador.

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