Volunteers prove importance of immigration

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The recent release of the 2006 census information did not paint a pretty picture for most parts of Cumberland County, or other rural areas in the Maritimes. The population continues to drop at an alarming rate.

This news does not surprise anyone. Young people are moving away to find more higher-paying jobs in Alberta, Ontario or closer cities like Halifax, leaving behind an older population that not only has a higher rate of mortality but also produces very few babies.

Trying to stem this outflow of our best and brightest young minds is a major challenge facing our region, but that is not the only answer to the population problem. Immigration is vital to our future, yet it often seems to get overlooked.

In fact, Canada had the highest population growth of all G8 countries between 2001 and 2006, and the vast majority of these new Canadians were immigrants.

Some predict that immigration could become the countrys only source of population growth by 2030, when the majority of our baby boomers will be gone.

So where are these immigrants going? Not here. The census shows that rural areas close to urban centers grew by 4.7 per cent during the last five years, while remote rural areas like ours dropped by 0.1 per cent.

As Parrsboro Mayor Doug Robinson recently pointed out, more has to be done to direct immigration toward rural parts of the country. Metropolitan areas like Toronto and Vancouver do not need more people. Incentives must be offered to attract new Canadians to regions where they are most needed.

At the same time, communities like ours need to do more to make our areas more open and friendly to foreign cultures. Large cities are more appealing to immigrants because they already have large ethnic neighbourhoods such as Asian and Indian communities. We need to promote what we have to offer, such as less expensive real estate and lower crime rates.

We also need to appreciate more what immigrants can offer. Look at whom Parrsboro is honouring for its annual volunteer recognition this year. The towns volunteer representative of the year is Keith Odlin, an immigrant from New Zealand, and Parrsboros nominees for the provincial family volunteer award are Frank and Sarah Hartman, immigrants from the United States.

These are people who are not only adding to the tax base. They are making a clear positive difference in their community.

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