Statis­tics tell tale of two prov­inces

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert grew up in Truro and is a Nova Sco­tian jour­nal­ist, writer and for­mer po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant to gov­ern­ments of all stripes. He now keeps a close and crit­i­cal eye on pro­vin­cial and re­gional pow­ers.

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.

“ is past year was one of im­pres­sive records and rsts in Nova Sco­tia. Our pop­u­la­tion reached an all-time high,” read the fall rone Speech. e 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. e 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 on July 1, 2017, and of the ve 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 Can- ada 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.

e 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.

Among other prov­inces, Bri­tish Columbia recorded pop­u­la­tion growth of 12.3 per cent; Que­bec, 9.1 per cent; and in At­lantic Canada, P.E.I. led the eld by a coun­try mile, with 10.4-per-cent growth in pop­u­la­tion over the decade. New­found­land and Labrador’s pop­u­la­tion in­creased by 3.9 per cent.

Again in Nova Sco­tia, the 10-year pop­u­la­tion trend re­flects the great di­vide be­tween HRM and the rest of the prov­ince.

While Nova Sco­tia’s pop­u­la­tion grew by just two per cent, the pop­u­la­tion of the Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity (HRM) which en­com­passes all of Hal­i­fax County, in­creased by 11 per cent be­tween 2007 and 2017.

In the year end­ing July 1, 2017 – the most re­cent county-by-county pop­u­la­tion num­bers posted on the pro­vin­cial Fi­nance De­part­ment’s statis­tics pages – Hal­i­fax scooped up six of ev­ery seven new­com­ers to the prov­ince. More than 3,700 new Nova Sco­tians set­tled in HRM, com­pared to just 639 across the rest of the prov­ince.

All these pop­u­la­tion statis­tics merely con­firm the story many Nova Sco­tians know all too well. e trends bring the fu­ture into fo­cus.

is is a prov­ince with two dis­tinct re­al­i­ties. In and near the cap­i­tal city there is growth – eco­nomic and de­mo­graphic. Be­yond the reach of HRM’S rel­a­tive pros­per­ity, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and small towns are slowly but surely emp­ty­ing out be­cause there isn’t enough work to keep folks there.

The pub­lic pol­icy ques­tion is whether this mar­ket-driven trend should con­tinue un­abated, or should greater e orts be made to stem the re­ced­ing pop­u­la­tion in ru­ral and small-town Nova Sco­tia?

Nova Sco­tia’s Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment notes that pro­grams like the At­lantic Im­mi­gra­tion Pi­lot seek to bal­ance im­mi­grant set­tle­ment more evenly be­tween ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas, but the num­bers are too small to re­verse the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion drain.

HRM’S eco­nomic re­nais­sance is mul­ti­fac­eted, yet the cor­ner­stone of the cap­i­tal city’s econ­omy re­mains the pub­lic sec­tor.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is cen­tral­ized in Hal­i­fax and the fed­eral pres­ence in Nova Sco­tia is in the city, most vis­i­bly re ected in the mil­i­tary.

Nova Sco­tia’s one-term NDP gov­ern­ment dab­bled in de­cen­tral­iz­ing gov­ern­ment jobs to other parts of the prov­ince in an e ort to spread the eco­nomic bene ts of gov­ern­ment more eq­ui­tably. e e ort was lim­ited, and the re­sults were mixed.

Kings North Tory MLA John Lohr made the eco­nomic re­vi­tal­iza­tion of ru­ral Nova Sco­tia a cen­tral theme in his un­suc­cess­ful cam­paign for the pro­vin­cial PC lead­er­ship.

The busi­ness­man-farmer lamented the waste of un­used farm­land in Nova Sco­tia.

He also ad­vo­cated lift­ing the mora­to­rium on frack­ing to cre­ate jobs and in­ject some needed cash into ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

While you may dis­agree with some of his ideas, Lohr is one of the few politi­cians in the prov­ince who stays fo­cused on eco­nomic re­newal in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.

e pop­u­la­tion trends tell us all we need to know. If Nova Sco­tia com­mu­ni­ties that lie be­yond the reach of HRM’S eco­nomic fall­out are to sur­vive, we need more folks who, like John Lohr, think long and hard about ways to re­vive the ru­ral econ­omy.

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