Growth strategy has blinkers on

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I was very disappointed with the discussion paper and the community workshop I recently attended in Corner Brook regarding the  provincial government’s Population Growth Strategy. The paper and the workshops were more about propaganda, propagating ideas or statements that are false or exaggerated to manipulate people to support a government decision, rather than meaningful, democratic, public engagement in the decision-making process.

Our provincial government has already decided, based on out-dated statistical information and a narrow view of the population issue, that we have a serious demographic problem to be solved by increasing birth and immigration rates. Neither the government discussion paper nor the facilitators at the workshop reported the updated population statistics which were referenced in a recent Telegram article: “Statistics Canada new population data released this week

estimates Newfoundland and Labrador’s population to be 526,702 on July 1, 2013.

“Up until its latest release, Statistics Canada had been estimating population levels for 2007 to 2012 using 2006 Census estimates. With the most recent release of population estimates, Statistics Canada revised its estimates to incorporate the results of the 2011 Census. This has meant a substantial upward revision in population estimates for Newfoundland and Labrador.

“‘While fluctuations in migration levels are to be expected from quarter to quarter, the current estimates indicate growth in our population of almost 18,000 since 2007 and five consecutive years of population growth between 2007 and 2012,’ said Jerome Kennedy, former Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. ‘This is good news for our province and its people.’”

Canada receives one-quarter to half a million newcomers annually, including immigrants, “temporary” workers, students and refugees. Most settle in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and only a handful settle outside Canada’s larger urban centres. Our large cities are already bursting at the seams with increasing congestion and smog and ever more stressed infrastructure, and have trouble dealing with their own wastes.

As of Oct. 31, the world’s human population is estimated to be 7.12 billion by the U.S. Census Bureau and over 7 billion by the United Nations.

Roughly half of all nations have quadrupled their populations since 1950. Current global population expansion is accompanied by increased resource consumption that threatens the world’s ecosystems, as well as impacts on humanity’s ability to feed itself.

Apparently our government does not believe that overpopulation is an issue in our province. Do they think that because Newfoundland and Labrador is relatively unspoiled when compared to the rest of the planet, spoiling it even more creates economic security and some sort of social equity?

The government of  Newfoundland and Labrador and the government of Canada need to develop a sustainable population policy that links human numbers in our province and country to the long-term carrying capacity of lands and waters, taking into consideration the needs of other species and the biodiversity required for a healthy ecosphere.

Resource scarcity, collapsing ocean fish stocks, loss of farm land due to urban sprawl, and a host of other problems are either directly or indirectly related to population growth.

 “Carrying capacity” is defined as the human population that can be supported in a given territory, in a specified lifestyle (normally the one to which people can reasonably aspire), without degrading their physical, ecological and social environment, and without imposing wastes on the environment which cannot be absorbed without damage.

Studies of carrying capacity should include an assessment of the global ecological footprint of the province and the country and the extent to which each country is affected by the ecological footprints of others.

The “ecological footprint” of a country is the total area of land and water ecosystems needed, both inside and outside its own territory, to produce the renewable natural resources its population consumes and to assimilate the wastes its population produces.

The undertaking of such calculations and decisions should involve public consultations in an informed, democratic and truthful manner.

 

Bob Diamond writes from Stephenville.

Organizations: Statistics Canada, Treasury Board, U.S. Census Bureau United Nations

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Toronto Vancouver Montreal Stephenville

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  • Ken Kavanagh
    November 05, 2013 - 07:49

    A great job Bob. You raise some very important points and I hope your letter is widely read. Ken Kavanagh Bell Island