The 2016 census keeps releasing more information, and in Atlantic Canada the latest stuff shows a troubling trend.
The trend is that the population of the region is rapidly aging and that’s creating issues for the health care and education systems of the four Atlantic provinces.
While the growing number of seniors and the declining number of young people making up Atlantic Canada’s population is the result of a number of factors, not enough job opportunities is one of them.
It’s not a new issue for the region, but it’s also one that won’t go away and seems to be worsening.
More economic development and jobs in all sectors would help address this. But resource development – in oil and gas, mining and renewable energy – could be a major contributor.
That’s particularly true in a province like Newfoundland and Labrador where the oil and gas and mining industries are major employers.
One thing that’s interesting about the census figures is that populations continue to grow in most of these provinces (New Brunswick was the only Atlantic province whose population didn’t grow.)
However, the growth is only happening in a few places. In Newfoundland and Labrador it’s occurring near St. John’s, but more than 200 towns across the province have fewer people now than they did five years ago.
The same is true in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., where people are flocking to bigger centres like Halifax and Charlottetown and leaving small communities.
So how can resource development reverse that trend? It can do it because mines and oil and gas discoveries don’t tend to happen where a lot of people are already living.
Instead, they happen in places like Wabush, Labrador and in Moose River, Nova Scotia and hundreds of kilometres offshore in the North Atlantic.
That results in plenty of work being done in corporate head offices in St. John’s and Halifax. But it also creates jobs for people in smaller communities, who either live near where the development is happening or who are able to commute from their hometowns to the work site.
There are often a lot of concerns expressed when a mine or an oil and gas development is proposed. People want to be assured they won’t hurt the environment.
Those issues are important. But it’s also important to create economic development and provide jobs to communities that are struggling.
Developing mineral and oil and gas resources are one way to do that, and that development could reverse those troubling demographic trends that are emerging from the 2016 census.