Cape Breton University president David Wheeler, from left, David Alderson, program development scientist at CBU, and Dr. Mary Doyle of the Cape Breton District Health Authority discuss a report on the current state of health of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY â€” If residents of the province's second-largest municipality want a secure, stable economic future, they should stop taking things for granted and immediately attack root problems such as poverty and economic development.
Such a caution came in a 40-page report released Tuesday that measured the vital signs of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The report was prepared by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia and was one of three such reports issued Tuesday. The other two dealt with Wolfville and Lunenburg County.
"This report comes at an important time in CBRM's history because CBRM is just coming off 10 years of a huge economic stimulus in the form of two separate remediation projects, which has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the community," said Allison Kouzovnikov, the foundation's executive director.
However, she said, with no such major projects on the horizon, residents need to take action now to address the drain of the region's young people, along with other issues that are hindering the area's ability to support itself.
The report examined a host of topics, from environment to health to arts and culture, and gives snapshot of the area's current state of affairs.
Among its findings, the report stated that between 2001 and 2011, the region lost 8,507 in population, which equates to having the population of New Waterford move out of Cape Breton. Also, during the same period, the population of people ages 12 to 17 fell by 5,045, which is comparable to having all the seats in Centre 200 filled with young people and moving them off the island.
Life expectancy in the municipal is about two years shorter than the provincial average and three years less the national average. CBRM residents are generally expected to have a life expectancy of 78.2 years. One in three residents is considered obese, while smoking rates continue to exceed both the provincial and national averages.
When it comes to poverty, the region is tagged with a rate of 20.8 per cent in 2010, which is nearly 20 per cent higher than the provincial average, and nearly 40 per cent higher than the national average. The child poverty rate for children under 18 was 29.3 per cent in 2010, which is 40 per cent higher than the provincial average, and 69 per cent higher than the national average.
For seniors (65 and over) in CBRM, the poverty rate is 20 per cent compared to 18 per cent for the province and 48 per cent nationally.
Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking described the report as a reality check, which was a comment echoed by many who attended the report's release during an event at Cape Breton University.
Adrian White, executive director of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, also attended the event and agreed with Eyking's assessment.
"There is a lot of digest in the report and there are lots of concerns. It is certainly an eye-opener for us in the business community," he said.
"There is a very real sense of urgency here."
Representatives from CBRM council were not able to attend the report's release as they were meeting Tuesday in committee-of-the-whole and later in the day held public meeting on the mayor's task force report on the future structure of the regional government. Council members have been supplied with a copy of the report.
The report's release was accompanied by a panel discussions featuring Dr. Mary Doyle of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, David Wheeler, CBU president, and David Alderson, program development scientist at CBU.
All agreed there needs to be attack on poverty, and its associated problems, along with developing a community economic development model that focuses on the spirit of entrepreneurs.
"The CBRM is not alone in its challenges. There is no healthy and vibrant Nova Scotia without a healthy and vibrant Cape Breton," said Robert Orr, the foundation's vice-chair.
"Everyone has a role to play to help improve our shared quality of life and future," he said.
Other findings included that CBRM now has the oldest median age at 47.5 years compared to seven comparable urban centres in Atlantic Canada. The region also scored lowest on the total crime severity index compared to other Atlantic Canadian cities, including Saint John, Charlottetown, St. John's, Moncton, Fredericton and Halifax.
At the same time, the CBRM recorded the second-highest total youth crime rate in 2012 with 4,276 youths charged with a Criminal Code offence per 100,000.
Out of the same comparable cities, the CBRM had the fourth-highest violent crime rate among youth.