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Ivany apathy and demographics

Has anyone else noticed the number of homes for sale in Amherst? It seems no matter where you are in town, you can see at least one For Sale sign.  

Have you also noticed that it is not uncommon for homes to sell significantly below their current Property Valuation Services Corporation Market Value Assessment? Declining population and economic opportunities are bad enough, but when you add in a decline in the residential property tax base, the downward death spiral accelerates.
No one wants to be Chicken Little running around complaining that the sky is falling, but I can’t help but wonder what it is going to take to effect meaningful change in our town, municipality and province.
The One Nova Scotia Report, An Urgent Call to Action has proven to be an awesome exercise in public relations, and perhaps even old style “pork barrel” politics.
The One Nova Scotia Report, An Urgent Call to Action was released almost four years ago in February 2014. Four years is a long time. Even in terms of Nova Scotia political time, it would be a challenge for the top lawyers in the province and perhaps even the entire country to find enough evidence to convict the One Nova Scotia Report of being urgent!
“The Status Quo is not an option,” yet here we are.
Last year in a bold move, consistent with the ideology of the One NS Report, Amherst broke with the status quo and implemented a no cost ice time pilot project for non-profit organizations at the Amherst Stadium.
Benefactors of this insightful and thoughtful pilot project included Cumberland County Minor Hockey Association, Amherst Skating Club, Amherst Regional High School Vikings and many others. The cost to the town was approximately $60,000.
This pilot project was and remains consistent with the slogan, “a great place to live, work and play.”
Amherst did something proactive in the area of physical fitness and demonstrated that Amherst is a good place to play. Private schools came here and spent thousands of dollars at local hotels and restaurants. Ringette tournaments were held with the same results. It made sense then, and it continues to make sense now.
Congratulations to Amherst town council for continuing with this worthwhile initiative. Amherst and Cumberland County need much more of this kind of positive action. Actions always speak louder than words.
Whether you agree or not, Amherst has developed a reputation for negativity. “We tried that,” “that’s good enough” or “that won’t work here”, have become the pre-dominate way of thinking in Amherst. You might not like to hear it, and some of you would say “prove it.”
Negativity is a subjective thing, and difficult to measure; however ask someone who is trying to sell a business or a home in Amherst about negativity.
An even bigger elephant in the room are the demographic facts. Facts are just facts, the emotion and opinion anyone wishes to attach to these facts is their business.
The politicians can rationalize the facts and the wordsmiths and spin doctors can sanitize and soften them, but at the end of the day and even in the fullness of time, the facts are the facts. Feel free to add some facts of your own if you don’t like or don’t agree with these ones.
I can handle the truth, can you?
In 2015, the population of all of Cumberland County was estimated to be 30,778, a decrease of almost four per cent from 2011. Cumberland County has one of the oldest populations in Nova Scotia, the third lowest median household income at $43,385 .
The employment rate in Cumberland County is 49 per cent, lower than the provincial average of 57 per cent. Hourly wages in Cumberland County were among the lowest in the country in 2015, 44 per cent of workers in Cumberland County earn a salary below $20,000.
This is considerably higher than provincial and national averages.
The percentage of high school graduates in Cumberland County that pursue post-secondary education is lower than the provincial average, but has been gradually increasing.
The prevalence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heavy drinking, obesity and disability are all higher in Cumberland County than the provincial and national averages and it has one of the highest rates of smoking in Nova Scotia along with the highest rate of obesity.
Arguably, what we are doing is not working. Let me rephrase that, if these are the common goals for the people of Cumberland County, congratulations! We’re #1!
By the way, given the reality that Lord Cumberland and Jeffery Amherst were both buddies with Edward Cornwallis, perhaps it’s time to amalgamate and start fresh with a new name and a new attitude.

Robert Bird is a certified financial planner and former member of Amherst town council who currently lives in Amherst with his two boys.

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