Enough already: It's time for a little ambition
I just saw a recent population forecast by region for Nova Scotia through 2040. I think it was commissioned by government (?) but I’m not sure.
It’s really unbelievable. Some are expecting slight population growth. Even the ones expected to grow slightly will see a decline in the working age population. The Annapolis Valley is expected to grow slightly but the population under 65 will decline.
The forecast matter-of-factly states that Cape Breton’s working age population will be decimated - from 79,500 today to less than 46,000 in just 20 years.
What is the point of these forecasts? If you went back 20 years or 40 you would find the long term forecasts back then were completely wrong.
Why? Because the forecaster is basically using some mix of past trends with a little pixie dust to come up with the forecasts.
Not only should this document be ignored, it should be a wake up call - a call to action - a forecast of the worst case scenario for Nova Scotia.
The problem is that governments use these forecasts to make decisions. New schools? Why? Hospitals? Long term plan to twin the TCH to CBRM? Why? It will be empty in 50 years, if CANMAC Economics is right.
How about instead of a massive decline in working age population in Cape Breton by 2040, how about 100,000? You want to bet on it? The chance that mine is right is probably as good as CANMAC.
I’m not blaming the forecaster. They are using a time tested forecast model. I just think governments should completely reject this.
What CANMAC doesn’t say it what will happen to the Cape Breton economy if the working age population collapses. It doesn’t talk about the cascading effect of not having workers. The first industries to go will be the exporters that can do the work elsewhere. Then the service providers that can’t make a buck - they leave next. Then you are left with basically public services and a few hold out local service providers trying to make a buck.
I’m tired and cranky.
It’s time for a little ambition - for Yarmouth, for Antigonish, for Pugwash, Digby, Clare and, yes, for Cape Breton.
Instead of diktats from on high intoning a grinding decline - why not ask local communities what level of population growth they need to capitalize on economic opportunities, to ensure that local firms have a good supply of workers, to avoid the demographic death spiral? Why can’t the Annapolis Valley grow its working age population strongly over the next 20 years. Why not new agricultural opportunities? Why not pump the local NSCC campus full of international students and graduate them into the local workforce? Why not more remote workers? It’s a beautiful spot for more than just retirement?
Why not build a provincial population growth strategy on the ambitions of local communities? Halifax wants a million by 2050? Fine. What does Amherst want?
Geez. We are our own worst enemies. I just see the school boards now deciding what schools to close. The Dept of Transportation deciding what rural roads to stop maintaining. Agricultural land going fallow. Tree stands that have been harvested sustainably for generation - cut no more. Minerals in the ground because no one is bothering to even look. Once vibrant towns now just big retirement villages.
Come on. Give your head a shake. Think about the consequences of your actions.
I’m not suggesting that smaller urban areas and rural areas have the growth potential of Halifax. Jacques Dube’s domain is self-perpetuating economic machine right now (it was not always so). But that doesn’t mean we just give up on the rest of the province.