The population of Halifax grew over the past five years, but the growth rate was still below the national average, according to the first census numbers released on Wednesday.
Statistics Canada’s numbers show the area it calls the census metropolitan area (CMA) – which includes the city and surrounding communities – increased by 3.3 per cent, still below the national rate of 5.0 per cent, though above the provincial increase of 0.2.
Halifax’s CMA population increased to 403,390, up more than 10,000 people compared to the 2011 census where population sat at 390,328. The actual city of Halifax’s population jumped from 390,086 in 2011 to 403, 131. The numbers put Halifax at 13th out of 35 CMAs in Canada.
Mayor Mike Savage said though the numbers might be underwhelming, being below the national growth rate, the city is on an upswing.
“Because it’s a five-year period, you don’t see year-by-year and as I say, in 2011 our growth was miniscule but in 2016 it was very strong,” Savage told Global News. “Higher than any cities except Toronto and Vancouver. So we expect that will continue. We want it to be strong, sustainable growth. That’s our plan.”
The growth can also be attributed to immigrants, who accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth, according to the census. That has resulted in similar trends locally.
“We’re bringing more people here and they’re staying here,” Savage said.
Some of the change could be attributed to youth still moving away from the city, according to Halifax Partnership chief economist Ian Munro.
Munro said for Halifax to continue to grow, more people need to be brought in.
“It’s good that they’re (numbers) positive, but they’re not large enough,” Munro said in an interview. “I think we all recognize that here in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada in particular we have an aging population. In order to sustain the public services we want and keep our economy vibrant, we need more people.”
Finn Poschmann with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council said that’s still an issue.
“What people are doing is following opportunity, inevitably,” said Poschmann, who is CEO and president of the council. “People go where the jobs are and the neat thing is, wherever there are more people, there are more jobs – they create themselves.”
Many other communities in the Halifax region saw significant decreases, with New Glasgow topping the list at a drop of 5.1 per cent. Of the communities listed, only Kentville, Truro and Bridgewater saw population increases, a trend Poschmann said he’s not surprised about.
“There’s a tendency to move away from the smaller centres towards the urban centres and that’s okay because it works out better for everyone except for people who have to manage and run small towns,” Poschmann said. “But as far as wages go and job opportunities go, we’re all better off the more urbanized we are.”
– With files from the Canadian Press