Justin Baird: Atlantic Canada Must Urbanize Faster

This is the second of two prize winning essays by Justin Baird, 3rd place winner of the AIMS on Campus 2015 Essay Competition. Here Justin argues the urban-rural ratio in Atlantic Canada has thrown our economy out of whack, and offers some suggestions on how to grow our cities. 

Halifaxnighttime

The number of people who continue to live in small, rural, and relatively isolated communities has caused considerable problems for all of the Atlantic Provinces. As a whole, Atlantic Canada is not only one of the most rural locations in the nation, but in the entire world as well. In all of the Atlantic provinces (with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador), the amount of individuals living in rural locations is over half the total population, with the largest province of Nova Scotia approaching 60%. The percentage of those who live in rural dwellings nationwide however, is under 20% of the total Canadian population.

This causes considerable difficulties as those who live in rural areas often have limited access to government resources, whilst having a higher tendency to depend on unemployment benefits in order to sustain them. In addition, those who live outside urban areas are often much older than the provincial median age which places a strain on the provincial health care budget that is likely to increase given the fact that the average age of those who live in Atlantic Canada is increasingly at a very fast rate.

Lack of urban growth has already had a number of negative effects on the general economy of the region. The incredibly slow growth of urban centres has caused those who are unable to find some form of employment in the provinces to migrate westwards to the oil fields of the Alberta, or to leave Canada entirely in order to pursue their field of study. It does not help that Atlantic Canada is already a very expensive place to live and start a family. This ultimately means that those who would stay in the province to work, increase the population and encourage economic growth are less likely to do so given the high cost of living.

The key to economic growth in Atlantic comes in the form two major initiatives. The first step is to encourage skilled immigration from Canada and abroad. Since immigrants are more likely to settle in urban rather than rural areas, this will help shift the demographics of settlement to reflect the national average. Increased immigration will also put a stop to Atlantic Canada’s declining overall population and provide a stimulus to the struggling economy.

To enact these changes, Atlantic Canada as a whole must also lower taxes to encourage businesses and immigrants that the area is suitable location for development and settlement. Atlantic Canada is fortunate enough to have some of the most beautiful ocean scenery in the world that could attract thousands to stay and start a family. In order to do this, all we need is to prepare the groundwork for eventual growth. By lowering taxes and encouraging skilled immigration, the demographics of the Atlantic Provinces will begin to reflect the national average, and urban centres will begin to increase in prevalence. We do not need to ship people out from rural locations. Instead, we need to open the door to others and explain that Atlantic Canada is open for business.

By Justin John Baird

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