Williams says he believes N.L. population will not shrink

James McLeod
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Former premier Danny Williams didn’t mince words when reporters asked him about a Conference Board of Canada forecast which predicts a drop in population for the province over the coming decades.

Danny Williams told reporters Monday he strongly disagrees with the Conference Board of Canada’s prediction that Newfoundland and Labrador’s population will plummet. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

“In my opinion, it’s absolute bullshit. That’s the simplest way I can put it,” he said.

“When I first got into government, the first presentation I had from the Department of Finance told me that within years, we were going to be below 500,000 people. Well, right now, I think the number I saw today was 525 or 527. We’ve grown by 18,000 people. So where do they come up with this?”

The Conference Board is a non-partisan research and analysis organization which looks at economic and public policy issues.

Marie-Christine Bernard, associate director for the Conference Board for provincial forecasts, said the board looks at economic data, demographic information, and forecast economic developments to come up with the numbers.

Its report has not been finalized, and is not publicly available, but the board says that by 2035 the population of the province will drop by more than 40,000 to around 482,000.

“If you consider the factors that we now have and that we now know, this is the forecast that we came up with. The fertility rate in Newfoundland is quite low, if not one of the lowest in Canada,” Bernard said. “There’s already more deaths than the number of births in Newfoundland right now.”

Williams dismissed that analysis.

He said as long as the province has a strong economy, fuelled by oil and natural resource development, then people will move here to work and live.

“We need to create a good environment for a place for people to work and live, but you know, we’ve got all the right assets here,” he said. “By way of an example in the offshore, our basins out there — the seismic work that’s been done in the offshore — is three times the size of the North Sea. That’s how big these potential basins are. It’s equivalent to the size of the gulf of Mexico. We’ve only drilled 207 wells out there; in the North Sea, Norway and Britain have drilled 5,500 wells.”

Bernard acknowledged that population levels are closely tied to economic prosperity, and more offshore development could mean a change in population forecast, but she said based on the data and the forecast model the Conference Board uses, the board is seeing a drop in population in the long term.

“I agree with him there’s a lot of projects, there’s a lot of momentum in the oil industry. There’s also some potential for additional projects to be developed,” she said. “We look at the longer term. We know that the population is aging in Canada and more so in the Atlantic Provinces.”

Williams was speaking to reporters Monday following an announcement about his 2,400-acre real estate development in Southlands.

The project will include as many as 5,000 new residential units in the St. John’s region.

“I’m putting my money where my mouth is, because we’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on this project out here over the course of life of the project, and I wouldn’t be doing that if I didn’t believe in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.



Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Finance

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, North Sea Mexico Norway Britain Atlantic Provinces

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Recent comments

  • FS
    February 11, 2014 - 20:49

    MLS shows St. John's has over 500 houses for sale, MP has 111 and Paradise has 183. How is he going to add 5,000 to the market.? To upgrade, people have to sell their current house. How many of the younger crowd have jobs that allow them to buy even a cheap house.? Maybe the real estate board could make a comment on the state of the market, and I'll bet they will say it is strong. They always do, always.

  • Dolf
    February 11, 2014 - 15:31

    Girls & girls, boys & boys don't make babies either. And there's thousands of 'em out there now. That's not bias, that's a fact.

  • Stephen D Redgrave
    February 11, 2014 - 12:52

    The Board is absolutely right. Mr Williams can build all the houses he wants , but without industry that doesn't involve fish, or, support our off shore oil interests--nobody is going to come here, or stay here for very long. For Heaven sake--we've had hundreds of years to get this province going,and still we have no industry to speak of. We have 113.000 sq kilometres of wasted land--comparable to England, yet England has found ways of useing every square inch in a productive way. Danny's houses will only create more inner City ghetto's, with crack pipe vending machines,and all the drug dealing to go with it. Smarten up Newfoundland --make industry inland, and forget about the ridiculous industry of fishing--it doesn't work anymore. It never did, and this province can't survive on "The Off Shore" . it far too small, and dangerous to be of any long term value. Unfortunately there will be another "Ocean Ranger" disaster--we all know, it's just a matter of time.

    • seanoairborne
      February 11, 2014 - 14:26

      The offshore is "too small"based on what stats.?You're bloviating?Just another person who likes to see his rather long winded droppings being published in the local paper.Danny Williams is a very successful businessman,what do you and your fellow long winded travellers on here do for a living?How many people have you created a job for?I'd rather accept his take on the issue then that of a professional whiner and naysayer.

    February 11, 2014 - 12:15

    Will not You have the same question as I do, how did someone get 2500 acres on the edge of the city and be able to sit on it for over 10 yrs with no development. A cottage lot will cost over $25,000 now. How much did he pay and who approved it, I would like to know. Now that would be a news article , or is all the media afraid Danny will sue them.

    • Will not
      February 11, 2014 - 15:56

      The city website shows a total of 2,179 acres with 1,352 for residential. I read somewhere he paid 500,000 for all of it?? The story says 5,000 residential lots so if he sells them at 100 per lot, he breaks even. Looks like a lot of profit to be made. If he likes drawing attention to his project, maybe he can answer a few questions, if a reporter will ask. I'll bet he's not the only politician with deals that should be looked at.

    • Corporate Psycho
      February 11, 2014 - 19:42

      The media doesn't have the stones.

  • Guy Incognito
    February 11, 2014 - 12:15

    Unfortunately there are a lot of people in this province that would believe Danny if he said the sky was red. Ever hear some of his blind followers on open line? They are not interested in the truth, they follow the Cult of Danny.

    February 11, 2014 - 12:03

    Will not You have the same question as I do, how did someone get 2500 acres on the edge of the city and be able to sit on it for over 10 yrs with no development. A cottage lot will cost over $25,000 now. How much did he pay and who approved it, I would like to know. Now that would be a news article , or is all the media afraid Danny will sue them.

    • Joe
      February 11, 2014 - 14:00

      Craig Westcott covered this in his The Business Post, but I can no longer find the issue. If memory serves, it indicated that the price was some thing like $500 per acre in the 1990's.

  • Will not
    February 11, 2014 - 11:19

    He will not admit to shrinkage. If people leave, more existing houses will become available and that will hurt his new city. He has a lot of money invested in this so if he puts in more for infrastructure and builds houses that don't sell, he's stuck. He has to make it look good and hope it works. My question is how much did he pay for the land and how much will he sell a building lot?? I believe he bought Crown land so the next question is how was that approved??

  • david
    February 11, 2014 - 11:13

    If anyone says they're have any remaining doubts or scepticism of climate change --- a topic with very little if any conclusive data whatsoever, one way or the other --- they're immediately ridiculed and branded a "denier" of reality. But this deceitful little putz can publicly deny decades of statistics, actuarial data, and the simple reality of human mortality.....AND be given a public pulpit to spew it from. Go away, you slimy realtor.

  • Guy Incognito
    February 11, 2014 - 10:16

    Why is Danny the authority on everything in NL? Why does his opinion make headline news every day? Of course he says is it bs.....he is hawking his fancy new housing development......

    • Corporate Psycho
      February 11, 2014 - 19:46

      Danny is doing his best to populate the Island.

  • Chantal
    February 11, 2014 - 09:00

    We should be encouraging more immigration to Newfoundland. And, no, I'm not talking about the temporary disposable workers.

  • JD
    February 11, 2014 - 08:42

    Using off-the-cuff terms like "bullshit" to deflect from the facts doesn't really sound very intelligent and well thought out. Where's the oversight for millions in public funds for infrastructure - streets, sidewalks, water/sewer, electricity etc. ?

    • saelcove
      February 11, 2014 - 10:37