Farewell to 2018 in At­lantic Canada

Tri-County Vanguard - - Opinion -

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.

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