N.L. population issues ‘getting to a crisis point’

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Strategy for population growth well past its due date

The province’s population growth strategy has been in development for over two years. In the interim, Allison Doyle had a baby.

Keith Gosse/The Telegram
The provincial population growth strategy was supposed to figure out a way to reverse the declining population and bring more young families in. But it’s long overdue, leaving some families holding off on having more children until there are more supports for parents in the province.

There was a lot to think about, she said. A great deal of the thinking, before the June 2013 birth of her son, was related to personal finances.


Population growth vital to meeting labour needs: minister

At age 31, she said she and her husband are holding off from having a second child, at least in part due to a need for more supports for would-be parents in this province.

Governments have issued various incentives aimed at growing young families, but Doyle said there are still challenges, particularly if the government wants to jump-start local birth rates.

“The government is pushing: have more kids, have more kids, have more kids. But middle-class people my age have all of this debt from student loans, housing prices — through the roof right now,” she said, adding time is a consideration in changing the status quo.

“We’re on a time crunch. We, generally as a female, have a timeline to have kids,” she said.

The population growth strategy is promised to go beyond birth rates, to also address community sustainability, youth retention and immigration.

It is a cross-departmental effort. But it’s just not ready yet.

“I really think it comes down to ‘short-term-ism’ and looking at the immediate needs,” said Nancy Healey, CEO of the St. John’s Board of Trade, criticizing the delay and calling for the strategy to be released.

“Growing a population — this is something, I guess, you can say has been creeping up on us, but now is getting to a crisis point.”

She said population growth is the board’s N0 1 issue.

“In fact, we think it’s the Number 1 threat to business success of our members and all businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said.

“There’s not a day goes by that a (board of trade) member doesn’t talk to me, lament about the inability to find the talented labour that they want. We have more people set to retire then we have entering the labour force. There’s this grey tsunami coming our way. We have been exporting people out of this province for decades. We have more deaths than we have births, we’ve had a declining birth rate for a very long time and we haven’t had a well established immigration track record over the past number of years. So we have an issue coming our way.”

The province has made some recent headway in its population numbers. However, looking at immigration, it is expecting to lose ground again in the near future, as the tide of workers for construction megaprojects rolls out.

Under middle-of-the-road assumptions, the government’s population projections online show modest net in-migration for now, “but then net out-migration occurs from 2016 to 2018 as several major projects, including the hydromet (processing) facility in Long Harbour, Hebron (oil project), Kami (iron ore development — currently on hold) and the Lower Churchill (hydroelectric development) are completed.”

The predictions then assume a bump for construction related to an offshore oil development in the area of Bay du Nord.

“Net in-migration resumes in 2025 and gradually increases thereafter to fill new jobs that are expected to be created as well as to replace baby boomers as they retire,” it states. “Net in-migration averages roughly 1,800 per year over the entire projection period from 2014 to 2035.”

But the board predicts a need closer to 5,000 people a year, Healey said.

A provincial-level population growth strategy was promised during the 2011 general election. Work was started in 2013, after the government gathered a team to launch into public consultations.

In early 2014, the strategy was promised by Canada Day. When July 2014 came around, then-minister Kevin O’Brien told The Telegram he expected to be able to present it by year’s end.

A request this week for a related interview with current minister Clyde Jackman was declined.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Advanced Education and Skills provided an emailed response to questions, saying the strategy can be expected “in the coming weeks.”

A more specific timeline was then requested. The response: “No there is nothing more specific that can be provided at this point.”

“There’s not a dedicated deputy minister for population growth now,” said a government staffer, while providing an extended accounting of staff changes within the department, during a House of Assembly committee meeting earlier this month on budget figures.

The apparently axed position — the department rep would not later confirm the statement — was created by former premier Kathy Dunderdale and first filled by Ross Reid, who went on to become Dunderdale’s chief of staff.

“Currently, the assistant deputy minister for workforce development and immigration, and the director of the workforce development secretariat are responsible for the population growth strategy,” said the email from the department.

A “what we heard” document, summarizing statistics and findings from the public consultations of 2013, was released in 2014.

The provincial government website still states release of the strategy is anticipated in 2014.

Population Growth, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

(NOTE: This is an edited version, updated at 10:30 a.m. on June 5, 2015.)


Organizations: Board of Trade, Department of Advanced Education and Skills, Assembly committee

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Long Harbour, Hebron

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Recent comments

  • Why haven't our politicians asked Ottawa pertinent questions related to the use of Newfoundland and Labrador's coveted Natural Resources?
    June 07, 2015 - 20:30

    Why hasn't any politician to date asked the most important question of all? Why did Ottawa neglect in 1949 to see that it's newest province Newfoundland and Labrador wasn't first place to be taken care of with its own natural resources? In May of 1949 during Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent's welcoming address to its newest province to the Canadian Nation stated that Newfoundland and Labrador's entry into the Canadian Federation was an 80 year dream of Canada. So, then, if Ottawa dreamt of acquiring Newfoundland and Labrador for 80 years and was so elated when it happened, why did Ottawa do nothing about directing the coveted Newfoundland and Labrador natural resources that were developed over the pass 66 years to creating a great economy and augmented population base in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? Those Natural Resources that came from NL created a great economy and thousands and thousands of jobs in Central Canada which also augmented the population base there in the thousands and thousands. It also aided and abetted Canada to have the status of bi g the G7 Nation out of the group of G21 Nations that grew out of the wonderful economic conditions that arose after the end of World War Two. If those Natural Resources had been directed to Newfoundland and Labrador's economy, they could have propelled NL's economy and population base into the stratosphere. Newfoundland and Labrador, no doubt, would have been the top economy in the whole of Canada.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador lost out from NOT BEING the PRIMARY BENEFICIARY of any of its Natural Resources.
    June 07, 2015 - 16:39

    Every one of Newfoundland and Labrador's COVETED natural resources, for instance FISH, HYYDROELECTRIC ENERGY, IRON ORE, NICKEL ORE, OTHER MINERALS, OIL, Etc., some other place in Canada and the World has become the primary beneficiary of those resources. IT IS SAD AND CORRUPT ON A NUMBER OF PEOPLES' PART FOR THIS TO HAVE OCCURED! The places that have become the PRIMARY BENEFICIARIES of our natural resources have been able to build vibrant economies and population bases from these COVETED Resources while Newfoundland and Labrador's economy languished on the Canadian economic vine. One would think that Ottawa would have stepped in and told the politicians to think about what they were doing and to put an end to it for their own province's sake , when they were distributing our province's natural resources in such a negligent manner. But, of course, Ottawa didn't step in, instead it was a BIG part of the problem, because Ottawa wanted those natural resources to build strong economic conditions and large population bases in Central Canada. Ottawa needed the resources that came from Newfoundland and Labrador to build the Canadian Nation it has become over the past 66 years since Newfoundland and Labrador entered the Canadian Confederation by hook or by crook! By the way Canada became the G7 Nation out of a Group of G21 Nations. It would not have done it without having complete control over Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources and it's great geographic and strategic location. We cannot forget the Air space and Ocean waters that brought Billions of dollars to Canada's coffers, as well!

  • LOL
    June 07, 2015 - 06:43

    This article is about one thing, and one thing only, Difference class of people looking for hand out from the taxpayers. If anyone decides to take on any kind of burden, and you get in over your head, don't expect the taxpayers to carry your load, because they have their own burden. If you want the title of mom or dad. then take responsible . because at the end of that journey, there blessing come from all your hard work. known as grandchildren. what more can you ask for.

  • noah
    June 05, 2015 - 21:31

    canada does not care about newfoundland. They either think we are clowns for their amusement or they deride newfoundlanders for their lack of employment. Newfoundland was doing fine on it's own and would be ok again if it separated. I know canada would sigh in relief. The animosity they feel is akin to racism. despite having more rhodes scholars than any other in the empire, newfoundlanders are called lazy and stupid, despite the fact that they do the crap jobs that no canadian will do. they always put on their best face but that is what people do to overcompensate their adversity. NL's largest export are it's youth, gone to do jobs no canadian wants. If all the newfs went home the navy wouldnt be able to sail. It is time to stop taking S-- from mainlanders and start telling the truth. Separation is an option.

    • david
      June 06, 2015 - 13:23

      Victimhood...sustaining NL since circa 1985.

  • david
    June 05, 2015 - 14:39

    To live somewhere, you need a job, confidence in the area's prospects, and essential public services. Sorry....NL is simply fading into oblivion.

  • Why are we languishing without any appreciable economy and population base? Please Read Why.
    June 05, 2015 - 12:58

    When every Premier since Joey Smallwood, the first Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador gave away every last one of our coveted natural resources that were developed here for other locations of Canada to grow economies and population bases, how does one expect the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to do anything other than languish economically and population wise? Do we have any politician here who knows how to grow any other economy other than their own?

  • Nichol
    June 05, 2015 - 12:37

    The basic requirement for population growth in the Western world are sustainable jobs...not silly incentives for young, already unemployed people to increase their dependence upon society. Sadly NL has a decided disadvantage, by geography, for any type of stable manufacturing employment, history has shown. The illusion of an economy created on the Avalon by grossly unneccessary Government jobs and a few oil projects, only results in the fiscal madness we face today. The unemployment rate for May for NL is 13.8%... as usual, the highest of any Province. But, more disturbing, our so called 'economic boom' managed to produce this rate...which is a full 5% above that of our neighbour NS, and 7% higher than the National average. This Government would not recognize a real economic boom if it hit them in the face. The Board of Trade in St. John's are the greatest navel gazers around...population indeed!

  • george smiley
    June 05, 2015 - 11:55

    Oh well, that's the Liberal's problem, right?

  • starve us out
    June 05, 2015 - 10:30

    When have we ever had a government that was committed to the people of NL? maybe if we had some human beings at the power helm instead of money mongers letting business' & their owners call the shots on their best interests instead of ours. The current mindset is importing people from third world countries instead of helping our own people succeed.

  • Guy
    June 05, 2015 - 10:02

    The cost of living has gone up too high. If housing prices were what they were 7 years ago people could afford to have kids. Now you need two people making over 50,000 just to afford a regular 2000sqft bungalow. I think the wages aren't the problem, too much going to mortgage payments…Which relates to less disposable income, this is a problem across Canada. Young couples have spread themselves too thin paying student loans and trying to have a house. There's no room for wages to increase. If houses were 150,000 to 200,000 like they are in the states (or less) for the comparable house, there would be more kids. But at 300,000-400,000 there's no room for kids. If you look across Canada what we pay for housing is a lot higher than other comparable cities…but with lower wages and increase costs for food and everything else and the answer is obvious

  • Pizza Tongs
    June 05, 2015 - 08:01

    Look the provincial government needs to get involved aggressively in the making and supporting of baby Newfoundlanders/Labradorians. Immigration will not save us. Parents creating babies should be rewarded with a $10,000.00 bonus to start with.

    • Yo mama
      June 07, 2015 - 19:45

      That's the most hilarious thing I've ever read, watch the skeet population flourish and the entire province becomes Canada's biggest slum.

    • Yo mama
      June 07, 2015 - 19:55

      Right now is the WORST possible time to start bring kids into this sad state of a country, once the justice system grows a pair and decreases the population of skid marks on societies underwear, only then should we repopulate with productive, law abiding citizens. Bring back capital punishment and whipping. Watch the country FLOURISH!!!