New census data was released May 29 indicating our population demographics are aging. No surprise, there. Nova Scotia, however, has the distinction of being the “oldest” province in the country, with 16.6 per cent of us aged 65 or older. With all due respect to our elders, this is a problem.
Workers drive the economy and pay the bills. With more people retiring, the tax base shrinks and services decline. As services decline and economies stagnate, young people are forced to move away, which just exacerbates the cycle.
Dalhousie academic Ed Ng, when interviewed by the CBC, said immigration could play a vital role in turning these trends around.
Halifax is a multicultural community. The rest of the province is not. Halifax is also young. In fact, the city’s working age population, as a percentage, is among the highest in the country. Whether it’s cause or effect, the city has welcomed immigrants and the city has no shortage of young people.
Let’s not kid ourselves: We have an uphill battle attracting new Canadians to rural Nova Scotia. Established immigrant communities in major centres are an almost irresistible draw.
Almost irresistible. But there are steps we can take.
Step one: Hold onto our own culture.
Step two: Celebrate new cultures.
It’s a mistake to jettison the traditions of rural Nova Scotia in an attempt to attract people from away. Our history and traditions are part of the package we can sell to new Canadians. We’re not a culturally-generic airport lobby, nor should we strive to be.
But celebrating our oldest cultures – First Nations, French, English and African-Canadian – must not mean denigrating new additions. Racism, for example, is alive and well in this province and our communities are no exception. We must consciously choose to be more tolerant of new perspectives. Genuinely welcoming difference would be a great first step. The business community and service clubs should also consider ways to increase international exchange, rather than waiting for a government miracle.
We all want to preserve our way of life. But there’s no “way of life” to preserve in a ghost town.