It's in the numbers

Terry Roberts
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Every five years, the release of the findings of the latest national head count makes for some fascinating reading and ruminating. It was no different last week when Statistics Canada began rolling out the results of its 2011 census.

It revealed that our population had grown to some 33.5 million people, making Canada the fastest growing nation in the so-called G8, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. That's up from the 31.6 million counted in the 2006 census, or a growth rate of 5.9 per cent.

This growth has been fuelled primarily by immigration, with oil-rich Western Canada leading the way.

And unlike past counts, the population in this province is trending upwards, totalling 514,536 in 2011. That's a 1.8 per cent increase from the last census in 2006, marking the first time this province has recorded a population growth since 1986.

Like Western Canada, this reversal can be attributed to our dependence on petroleum production, which has helped fuel a spending boom in the this province in recent years, with record investment into sectors such as health care, education and infrastructure.

The population numbers show a dramatic shift in population to the northeast Avalon, with the Town of Paradise, for example, reporting a whopping 40 per cent growth in population.

But the hollowing out of rural Newfoundland doesn't appear to be taking too much of a bite out of the Trinity Conception region, where, according to our calculations, incorporated towns in this area saw a slight increase in the combined population, nearing the 30,000 mark. This growth is being propelled primarily by three neighbouring towns - Clarke's Beach, Bay Roberts and Spaniard's Bay.

While Carbonear, the so-called Hub of the Bay, saw only a slight increase in population, Bay Roberts grew by an impressive 7.5 per cent. As such, there are now 1,000 more people living in Bay Roberts than there are in Carbonear.

And while Clarke's Beach grew by 8.3 per cent, Victoria reported a decline of 0.3 per cent, and Salmon Cove's population shrunk by nearly two per cent.

What should we make of this?

In simple terms, you could say that towns located closer to the Trans-Canada Highway, and therefore the booming St. John's metropolitan area, are fairing much better. This closer proximity to St. John's makes it easier to work and avail of amenities and services in the capital city, while still enjoying a rural way of life.

One only needs to take notice of the many hundreds of vehicles that roll out of this region each weekday morning, filled with people making their way to their places of work in St. John's. It's easier to do this if you live in Bay Roberts, for example, than if you live further north in a town such as Harbour Grace.

In light of this, community and business leaders in the Carbonear area recognize they have to work even harder to promote economic development. This effort took an important step earlier this month when Carbonear unveiled a new branding and marketing strategy, one aimed primarily at attracting new investment in the area.

It's a known fact that municipalities with stagnant and shrinking populations will find it harder and harder to maintain infrastructure and provide the basic services. That's why it's important to use the information contained in the latest census as fuel to ignite a fire that churns out more ideas and strategies aimed at strengthening and building communities throughout the region.

Carbonear entrepreneur Frank Butt, for example, who is leading an effort to form a chamber of commerce in the town, is on the right track, and should be commended and encouraged.

— Terry Roberts

Organizations: Statistics Canada, Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Western Canada, Carbonear, Bay Roberts France Germany Italy Japan United Kingdom United States St. John's Avalon Paradise Newfoundland Victoria Salmon Cove

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