The chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade says the biggest obstacle to sustained growth in Newfoundland and Labrador is a lack of available labour.
Denis Mahoney, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade, says the province is facing a significant demographic challenge. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram
Speaking to the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Home Builders Association on Tuesday, Denis Mahoney said the province is facing one of the most significant demographic challenges in the country.
“With a declining population, the amount that we’re all going to pay in taxes, to our towns or municipalities, to our province — they’re going to continue to increase to provide the hospitals, the schools, the roads that are needed to make this place liveable,” Mahoney told the association’s membership luncheon at the Fluvarium Tuesday afternoon. “And to pay off our
$8.6 billion in debt. It’s not, presently, a recipe for significant success, unless we come to terms with some of these fundamentals.”
Mahoney said the Board of Trade has been lobbying the provincial and federal governments to raise immigration targets and reduce red tape.
“We desperately need to grow our population in this province if we plan on still having families that are going to live in these new homes in the coming years,” he said.
Having said all that, Mahoney said he believes it’s an exciting time to live, work and invest in the province.
“But I tell you, we have some work to do to keep the opportunities going,” he said. “We have launched the idea of the boom, because it’s important to celebrate the success of these amazing opportunities that we’ve been given in this province. But if we’re going to celebrate the optimism, its successes and its potential, we have to figure out where we’re going to get the resources to keep it going.”
Victoria Belbin, the homebuilders’ association CEO, said Mahoney’s message resonated as its members need people to build and buy their homes.
It’s that interest that has prompted the association to step up its involvement in municipal politics, by sponsoring a mayoral debate Tuesday night and lobbying for a closer relationship with
St. John’s city council. Homebuilders’ ability to keep housing prices down is crucial, she said.
“We want to ensure that those people that are coming in that we want to attract, that they have options, where they’re going to live,” she said. “If we don’t, it’s going to be really difficult for people to be able to come into our economy and participate in the opportunities that are here now.”