Population decline forecast ‘bullshit’, former premier Danny Williams says

Published on February 10, 2014
Former premier Danny Williams speaks to reporters today in St. John's. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Former premier Danny Williams didn’t mince words when he was asked about a Conference Board of Canada report which says that the province’s population will shrink by tens of thousands of people in the coming decades.

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

Williams was holding a media event to unveil the new brand for his 2,400-acre development project in Southlands, which will combine industrial and commercial space along with thousands of new homes.

“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.

The Conference Board report said that due to an aging population and a low birth rate, population in the province is expected to shrink.

But Williams said that with the economic fortunes in the province brighter than ever, people will come here to live. Williams said he believes that the oil developments that will be coming in the next few decades will drive the economy.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Speaking to reporters, Williams also talked about the fortunes of the IceCaps, about PC Party leadership contender Bill Barry, and mining developments in Labrador.

To listen to the full audio recording of his comments to reporters, click here: https://soundcloud.com/telegramjames/danny-williams-scrum-feb-10