Sunday, July 3, 2022

Census 2021: Numbers bring good news to Nova Scotia

  • February 16 2022
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – Statistics Canada released the earliest available data from the 2021 census, which was conducted over the summer of 2021, last week. The data, which focuses on population only — additional information on age, sex at birth and gender will be available in April — still has an interesting story to tell.

Through anecdotal evidence and house market statistics, a clear trend of people migrating to the Maritimes throughout the pandemic has been identified. The census data bears this out, noting that for the first time since the 1940s the population of the Maritimes grew at a faster pace than the Prairie provinces. Nova Scotia’s percentage change in population from 2016 to 2021 is five percent; New Brunswick, over the same period, garnered a 3.8 per cent increase; and PEI can boast the fastest population increase of eight per cent.

Canada is the fastest-growing country in the G7, with approximately 1.8 million more people in 2021 than in 2016. Four in five of these people are immigrants. The population growth in the Maritimes is attributed to both immigrants and movement of Canadians from other parts of the country.

The eastward movement of Canadians “may be partly related to the increased possibility of working from home, combined with larger economic disruptions in other parts of Canada and the lower costs of housing in the Maritimes,” the Statistics Canada report stated.

Closer to home, municipalities in Guysborough County have also benefited from the Maritime migration trend. Except for the Town of Mulgrave, the rate of population decline in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has decreased (see chart).

Rural Nova Scotia has seen a positive trend in population growth, a change of 1.3 per cent from 2016 to 2021. Statistics Canada reports, “The pandemic has impacted the population dynamics of rural areas primarily through the rapid rise of telework, an increased desire for low density communities, and a decline in international migration. The rapid shift toward telework, which occurred during the pandemic, has allowed people to seek more affordable housing markets in suburban or rural areas. Additionally, telework arrangements now allow many individuals who currently live in rural areas to access urban job markets without relocating.”

The disparity between the rise in rural populations in the province and the continued, though slowing, decrease in population in Guysborough County can be attributed, in part, to the difference in remoteness in rural areas. Statistics Canada notes that not all rural areas are alike and has created an index of remoteness based on geographic proximity to urban areas (service and population centres) and on the population size of those urban areas.

The remoteness scale slides from least remote, less remote, moderately remote, more remote and most remote. According to the Remoteness Zones of Canada 2021 map, most of Guysborough County falls under the ‘more remote’ zone, while a majority of the province falls under the moderately or less remote classification.

The picture presented for Nova Scotia in the 2021 census is a positive one. Forthcoming releases will further inform the province of trends to watch and opportunities to pursue.