St. John’s councillor slams report predicting decline in province’s population

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on February 12, 2014

St. John’s city council has slammed a new report that forecasts a long-term population decline in the province.

At Monday night’s meeting, Coun. Tom Hann criticized a new report from the Conference Board of Canada that predicts Newfoundland and Labrador’s population will decline from its current 527,000 to 482,000 by 2035.

The report predicts declining economic fortunes for Newfoundland and Labrador over the next two decades, and notes the province’s annual number of deaths exceeds the annual number of births, and the birth rate — 1.45 births per woman in 2011 — is the second-lowest in Canada.

On Monday afternoon, former premier Danny Williams called the report “bullshit,” and Hann followed suit in sentiment, if not in words.

“I will not say that in this chamber, your worship,” Hann told Mayor Dennis O’Keefe Monday night. “As much as I would like to, I will not. (But) he was absolutely right.”

Hann questioned how the board arrived at its conclusion, given the amount of oil activity in the province.

“I don’t know what the methodology was, or how they did the research, but I think they’re way off base, and they’re not thinking in terms of coming here and being on the ground and investigating,” said Hann, who asked city staff to analyze the report. “I don’t think you can sit at a desk in Toronto and predict that this place is going down the drain.”

O’Keefe agreed.

“It just amazed me that that report came out following the terrific announcement by Statoil last week … that they are continuing this summer their exploration and drilling in the Flemish Pass area,” he said. “In the face of all of that positivism, we have this sort of thing emanating from the Conference Board of Canada, and I think former premier Williams summed it up very well today for the media.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel