Census 2016: What this means for Atlantic Canada

By Salman Dostmohammad
AIMS on Campus Fellow

The 2016 census data have revealed a very important insight. The Prairies and British Columbia are now the fastest growing regions and account for roughly a third of the population. Ontario accounts for slightly less than 40 percent of people and just less than 25 percent live in Quebec. And then there is Atlantic Canada, which is home to less than seven percent of Canada’s population.

It is important to note this last part because over the past five decades, the share of Canadians living in Atlantic Canada has decreased. According to Statistics Canada, 10 percent of Canadians used to live in the region in 1966.

Several issues are at play, which work against the region. These include a low birth rate, the flight of young talent to other provinces (otherwise known as interprovincial losses), and lower immigration levels.

If the rest of Canada continues to keep growing at the expense of Atlantic Canada, then the region will continue to lose its relevancy in national discourse and public policy.

This problem has been apparent for years and the provinces and the federal government have indicated their commitment to cooperate with the development of the Atlantic Growth I will discuss the Atlantic growth strategy in my next blog post.

Introduction to the Atlantic Growth Strategy

By Salman Dostmohammad
AIMS on Campus Fellow

The release of the 2016 census data revealed a big problem for Atlantic Canada.

Unless the region improves its demographic situation, provincial tax revenues will decrease and this will place downward pressure on governments, forcing them to act in one of the following scenarios:

  • A need for raise taxes for citizens to keep the same level of service,
  • A need to keep taxes the same but lower the level of service offered, or
  • A need to borrow and increase the debt to provide more services to less people.

Raising taxes and or increasing the net debt of the provinces will compound Atlantic Canada’s problems and do little to reverse its fortunes.

To offset this problem, the region should be working to attract newcomers and entice them to stay. And people will only stay if there are opportunities for them and their families. Creating more jobs is the sort of opportunity that newcomers need, and more of them. Students also need jobs and there is a rich potential of talent available here. Over 80,000 students choose to study in the region. Many of these students would like to stay after graduation but leave simply because the opportunities are not available to them.

The goal of the Atlantic Growth Strategy is for the federal government and the Atlantic provinces to co-operate on shared priorities. The strategy consists of a series of programs aimed at creating jobs and growing the economy and is based on five priority areas: skilled workforce/immigration, innovation, clean growth and climate change, trade and investment, and infrastructure. The strategy is aimed at being an employer-driven program.

In January 2017, federal and provincial leaders met in Wolfville to discuss the strategy and announced a number of pilot projects. One such initiative is an immigration pilot program that will initially accept 2,000 immigrants and their families. This is a sizeable number for the region. The first stage of the program will begin this month when Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada will start to accept permanent resident applications for Atlantic Canada.

The response thus far on this strategy has been favourable. The Charlottetown Guardian calls the program “a new hope”. And Finn Poschmann, CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) wrote, “Every once in a while, governments get something right.”

The strategy aims to offers temporary foreign workers in the region with a path to permanent residency. This will be a big incentive for them to want to stay. The strategy will also involve new immigration programs for new graduates. This is beneficial because a big challenge for new graduates is finding employment in the region.

My next post will explore further details on the immigration pilot program.

Now is not the time to abandon free market principles

By Christopher Sallie
AIMS on Campus Fellow

Last Fall, the Canadian Government announced the approval of pipeline projects that will bring oil and gas resources to tide water, securing access to new markets for our natural resources. Expected to create thousands of jobs in Alberta along with spin-off economic benefits across Canada, this was good news for the Canadian economy still gripped with sluggish economic growth amidst international uncertainty. Meanwhile, opponents of this plan maintain this announcement signals the abandonment of previous commitments towards balancing the needs of the environment alongside the economy; some have stated that they will take action against any developments in this sector.

In this decision, we see the Canadian Government strike the appropriate balance between economic and environmental considerations; with an understanding on how free market capitalism is a crucial element of liberal democratic principles. Responsible governments serve a purpose towards regulation in preventing exploitation, ensuring that human rights are held in the highest regard with property and civil rights at the centre.

Recent political developments across the western world have indicated a populist shift towards pre-WWII isolationist policies, which can only serve to impede economic growth and free enterprise. In Canada, now is not the time to abandon our principles on trade and economic growth but to champion them further. We must reject protectionist policies that attempt to control the market and decide what is in the best interests of free society. If the Canadian government were to acquiesce towards small, yet vocal, demands that they ban all natural resource extraction, we would be throwing economic basics out with the bath water. In societies that operate freely, it is the consumer who picks the winners and losers – not government.

The science on climate change is undeniable and we need to finally come to terms with the facts on the issue, especially when it comes to our political leadership. If we are truly concerned with the impacts of climate change then it is us, the consumer, who hold the future in our hands and it is through choice that we can chart a new path towards a healthier environment. It is up to us to decide that we will no longer purchase products, that we exercise our ability to freely choose products. Thankfully, our free society places great economic power in the hands of consumers.