Farewell to 2018 in Atlantic Canada
As 2018 draws to a conclusion, Atlantic Canadians try to find a little time between the hectic Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays for some quiet reflection. It’s a chance to look back on the past year and decide whether we are better or worse off today than when the year began.
Our thoughts cover a wide range of topics. We often think in economic terms, such as changing jobs or getting a promotion, food costs, purchasing the latest electronic gadgets, the cost of gasoline or moving into a new house. Perhaps even the weather.
Others will rate 2018 on a more personal level, such as the loss of a loved one, the arrival of a new baby, making new friends or even a great family vacation. It’s really about what we feel is important in our lives.
There is a general sense that Atlantic Canadians feel 2018 wasn’t a bad year, nor was it a good year. Perhaps just holding our own made it a successful year.
The topic that dominated newscasts in Atlantic Canada concerned trade and tariff uncertainty with NAFTA. It was a relief when a new deal was finally signed although dairy, egg and poultry farmers were hurt. They must be fairly compensated.
New Brunswick had an interesting year, highlighted by a provincial election. Former premier Brian Gallant won the popular vote by six full percentage points but trailed the Progressive Conservatives by a seat and was eventually forced to resign. He was hurt by economic issues — lumber tariffs, the collapse of the Energy East pipeline, the potash mine closure in Sussex and carbon pricing. New Brunswickers voted on pocketbook issues.
Newfoundland and Labrador was caught up with a public inquiry into Muskrat Falls. Many residents wondered how the project could run billions of dollars over budget, while others just want to move on and stop wasting money on an inquiry into how money was wasted. The province feels the worst is over, the severe belt-tightening and austerity programs are easing and the economic outlook for 2019 is much brighter.
Prince Edward Island continued to enjoy a strong economy but it’s finally starting to cool; although the housing sector remains hot. For the first time, Premier Wade MacLauchlan had to deal with economic setbacks, such as several plant closures. The potato industry is reeling from the loss of an estimated 7,000 acres of spuds left in the ground.
One of Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s biggest concerns centres on the future of the pulp mill in Abercrombie, which is pitting fishermen and environmentalists against forestry workers. There is intense pressure against a company plan to dump waste water into the Northumberland Strait, putting the mill’s future at risk. But exports are up and Michelin is expanding.
Of course, what many will argue is of greatest concern is the health care system, highlighted by ongoing emergency department closures throughout the province – and in Shelburne and Digby in particular – due to lack of physician availability.
And after a devastating blow when a closure was announced just weeks before Christmas, a major call centre in Sydney is set to re-open — a most welcome Christmas gift for Cape Breton.
Overall, Atlantic Canadians can confidently raise a glass on New Year’s Eve and bid a generally fond farewell to 2018.
Nova Scotia’s growing population has become a point of pride for the provincial government, so it sneaks the line into statements and news releases with increasing regularity.
“This past year was one of impressive records and firsts in Nova Scotia. Our population reached an all-time high,” read the fall Throne Speech. The government currently estimates Nova Scotia’s population at 964,700.
A slightly deeper dive into Nova Scotia’s population statistics tells the familiar tale of two provinces. The mass of immigrant settlement and population growth is in Halifax County, while most of the rest of the province suffers from a declining population.
Of the province’s 18 counties, 13 endured a population decline during the year that ended July 1 in 2017, and of the five that did not contract, only Halifax recorded growth of more than one per cent. Outside Halifax, the province experienced a population loss of 0.3 per cent in that year.
Plus, Nova Scotia has a lot of ground to recover. Statistics Canada reports that in the decade 2007-17, Nova Scotia experienced the second weakest population growth among provinces and territories. At two per cent, it was just ahead of New Brunswick’s 1.9 per cent.
The nation’s population grew by close to 12 per cent over that decade, to 36.7 million. Alberta led all provinces with a 22 per cent increase in its population.