Population statistics only tell half the story

Opinion

To the Editor:

Statistics show that Nova Scotia’s overall population is growing.

That’s the good news part of the story. Unfortunately, in this case, there is another troubling statistic lurking below the surface: Nova Scotia’s growth is almost exclusive to HRM. Good for HRM but for everyone outside of the city, these statistics only emphasize what we already know — communities in rural Nova Scotia are getting smaller, with fewer people, fewer opportunities and fewer services.

When communities decline, businesses suffer, schools and churches close and, too often, people generally struggle.

For too many communities, this is the story of Nova Scotia. A vicious cycle that will be very difficult to reverse. Population growth, population retention, will be necessary if we are to write a new chapter and generate statistics that we don’t have to cherry pick to be proud of.

That will mean that we need more skilled workers and more entrepreneurs. They not only fill labour gaps, they also create jobs by starting new businesses and laying down roots.

There are success stories but we need more and we need them all across the province.

Government has an important role and, yes, over the years, it has launched immigration programs that have encouraged newcomers to consider Nova Scotia.

In fact, last week, the McNeil Liberals announced that the Provincial Nominee Program would focus on continuing care assistants and truck drivers. As usual, there is a lack of details and there doesn’t really seem to be a plan but at least we can now see some evidence that it’s on their mind.

Still, the province must do better.

I will continue to push for targeted efforts to attract and retain skilled workers that want to live and thrive in our rural communities. They are very much needed. The reality is that the survival of many rural Nova Scotia communities depends on an ability to grow its population.

The Liberals may boast that Nova Scotia’s population is growing, but I’m committed to making sure that 5, 10 or 20 years down the road, those statistics can be celebrated all over the province.

Tim Houston, Leader

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party