© Dave Mathieson - Cumberland News Now
Mark Austin spoke to about 30 people who attended a One Nova Scotia Community meeting Tuesday at NSCC Amherst. Austin is the director of research and communications with One Nova Scotia, Shaping our New Economy Together.
AMHERST - Low growth and an aging population is one of the biggest challenges facing Nova Scotia in years to come.
"The province reached a point last year where there were more deaths than births," said Mark Austin, director of research and communications with One Nova Scotia, Shaping our New Economy Together.
The Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy was in Amherst in March and they returned to Amherst on Tuesday night to get more input from the community.
About 30 people attended the meeting at NSCC Amherst to discuss the challenges facing Nova Scotian's.
"The majority of people understand the relationship between our need for growth in our economy and our ability to offer services," said Austin. "But there are many people out there who aren't concerned that our population is aging."
Austin then tabled some cold hard facts about the provinces population.
In terms of the last census, which measured population between the years 2006 and 2011, Nova Scotia is at the bottom of population growth compared to all the other provinces in Canada. Alberta had the heaviest growth with 10.8 per cent.
"Nova Scotia had .09 per cent growth compared to the other nine provinces in Canada, ranking us in last place," said Austin.
Austin posted the above numbers on his facebook page.
"I had quite a hostile response from somebody saying the world is over-populated and saying, ‘what is wrong with you people calling for more people,'" said Austin. "There's a big difference between calling for everybody to make more babies but what we're talking about is we have a big place here and we have a lot of needs and we need a labour force.
"People can come from throughout Canada and throughout the world and we can grow the population in away that will not impinge on the lifestyles we want to have. In fact it will enrich us with diversity."
He also pointed out that the population is aging rapidly.
"We know we have silver economy with people who are the anchors of our society in volunteer positions giving back, and people who work well above the age of 64, and those are things we want to build on," said Austin. "But an aging population means lower revenues, but does it mean lower expectations from services. Where's the money going to come from?"
Austin also tabled numbers regarding education.
"The enrollment of students in Nova Scotia for Grades P-12 in 2013 is 122,643. In 1973 the enrollment in the same classes was 211,258," he said. "There are about 88,000 fewer students in the public school system right now than 40-years ago."
People had larger families in 1972 but the cost of education has gone up significantly.
"In terms of our numbers and the kinds of services we expect we have some tough stuff to grapple with," said Austin. "We have to find new ways to figure out these issues."