Cape Breton Voices | We need immigration to provide stronger, consistent economic growth
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We need immigration to provide stronger, consistent economic growth

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We need immigration to provide stronger, consistent economic growth

The latest census numbers released by Statistics Canada did not provide a rosy picture of what lies ahead in Nova Scotia and the rest of Atlantic Canada.

It showed that between 2011 and 2016 the Atlantic provinces experienced the largest drop in the country in the proportion of people aged 15-64. While the percentage of people aged 65 and older was 12.3 per cent in Alberta, it was almost 20 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

If anyone wasn’t attuned the fact already, these numbers tell us how important it is to attract more immgrants to this region and to retain them.

Immigrants arrived at record pace in 2016, due in large part to an influx of Syrian refugees. The challenge is to make strong immigration a regular occurrence in the region, and not an exception or only related to an humanitarian crisis, as important as it is for us to provide refuge in such cases.

Statstics Canada said if current trends continue, “this difference between the provinces with the highest and lowest proportions of seniors could reach almost 15 percentage points by 2031.”

Population growth is essential to sustaining a labour force, providing markets for business, supporting public services and maintaining a viable tax base.

Population growth has a major impact on whether people are able sell homes, properties and businesses and on the prices they can get for them.

Shortages of labour and a glut of properties on the market, with too few buyers to take them off, are not the conditions of a prosperous future.

To offset an aging population and declining birth rates, this province and region need to embrace immigration. The province’s population is expected to decline over the next two decades. Welcoming more immigrants is an integral part of future economic growth.

More than 3,418 immigrants touched down in Nova Scotia in the first six months of last year, an improvement over the 3,403 of 2015, which was itself a record year. So we are making progress. But the census brings home how far we have to go.

We need immigration to provide stronger and more consistent economic performance. Like retaining young people born here, immigration is an investment in future growth and in new ideas and energy that diversify and strengthen social and economic fabric. Immigration and youth retention reinforce each other, each creating a stronger economic base that helps the other to make a life here. We should do all we can to help both achieve that.

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