According to Gibson, Fitzgibbons & Nunez (2015) in State of Rural Canada: Summary of Nova Scotia:
“The province of Nova Scotia, and its rural communities, stand at the precipice. Change is imminent”. The authors discuss the following facts:
Rural Nova Scotia is in crisis due to a shift of population from rural to urban since the 1990s. The “hollowing out” of rural areas and the “collapsing” of the economy is marked by:
- An increase in an aging population; most Nova Scotians are over 65 years old, and Nova Scotia has the second oldest population in Canada.
- An increase in the number of youth and young workers leaving rural communities to find work in urban centres or other provinces.
- A total population decline with the exception of Halifax and Hants Counties
These demographics have created the following social and economic consequences:
- A significant and long term decline in our standard of living, the quality of public services. Local and provincial governments struggle to provide water quality, adequate health care, public transportation, recreational activities and policing. There is a greater incidence of poor roads, water and sewer pipes and water testing facilities. Less population and a declining tax base have caused school, hospital and small business closures, a family doctor shortage, and the centralization of essential services and supports in the two regional municipalities of Halifax and Cape Breton (Sydney).
- A need to revitalize and diversify the economy, and to find new and innovative solutions to job creation. The economy continues to revolve around natural resources, such as agriculture, fisheries, mining and forestry, but computerization and mechanization has reduced the number of workers directly employed in these resource-based industries.
- A renewed commitment to preserving a language or cultural traditions as evidenced in the Mi’kmaq (2.7% of the population, 13 Mi’kmaw communities), Gaelic, and Acadian communities.
- The provincial volunteer rate is higher than the national average by 7.7% and collectively, in 2013, the province contributed a higher annual average amount of volunteer hours than any province in Canada. The Credit Unions and co-ops in rural areas generate 1.8 times the revenue and have three times as many members and twice as many employees compared to urban cooperatives. Community members are creating their own community transit services and other supports such as community gardens, community run affordable housing solutions, food security groups. An active community of volunteers and rural leaders from across the province drafted the “Nova Scotian Rural Declaration” in 2015. There is a “tremendous momentum from rural community residents and leaders to chart a different future, one that leads to rural renewal.”
- The population of M’kmaw is considerably younger than Nova Scotia in general, but the population has higher unemployment rates and lower educational attainment levels.
According to the Ivany Report (2014): “We cannot sustain economic growth over time unless renewed population growth provides more workers, more entrepreneurs and more consumers” .
His report was a call for action on the part of all Nova Scotians, and he articulated 19 goals for Nova Scotia’s future (19 goals in italics).
One Nova Scotia, a group of independent researchers are currently monitoring our progress or lack of progress in reaching these goals (https://onens.ca/background/).
Goal Targets – Currently progressing toward but haven’t reached the target as yet:
- Inter-provincial migration (more Nova Scotian youth are remaining here, more people from other provinces are moving here, and some Nova Scotians who have left in the past are now returning)
- International Immigration (more new immigrants are settling in rural areas and there was a large arrival of Syrian newcomers in early 2016 because of private sponsorship)
- Retention of international students (up 5%)
- Youth employment (a greater percentage of youth between 18 and 24 are finding work)
- Post-secondary education and training (up 10%)
- Venture capital (more start-up companies are getting venture capital closer to the Canadian average)
- Tourism expansion (slight growth every year)
- Fishery and agricultural exports (growth due in part to strong lobster prices)
Goal Targets – Not progressing
- Value in exports (declining natural gas output –Sable Island, manufacturing closures or relocation in other provinces, high Canadian dollar, but strength in seafood and farm markets and tire exports (three Michelin Plants)
- Firms participating in export trade (only very slight improvement)
- Labour force participation rate (decline because of aging population)
- Post-secondary research and development (cyclical nature of funding)
- Government’s ability to pay off debt (dependent on provincial tax base and other factors)
Goal Targets – Not enough data yet
- New business startups
- Employment rate for African Nova Scotians and First Nations
- Research and development partnerships
- Domestic markets for agricultural products
- Long-term planning process
The goal for a province wide plan has been achieved.