StatCan data reveals 2,100 Canadians moved to Nova Scotia to work from home
Overall population growth 'exactly what we said we wanted': Munro
December 6, 2022, 4:59 pm ASTLast Updated: December 6, 2022, 5:00 pm
Nova Scotia’s net gain of 2,100 Canadians who moved here to work from home is a good thing, says Halifax Partnership chief economist Ian Munro.
In May 2021, Nova Scotia saw 2,100 people work from home who had been living in another province 12 months prior, according to Census data released on Nov. 30. Nova Scotia ranks second in the country, behind British Columbia, when it comes to welcoming telecommuters.
As Nova Scotia’s population continues to age and more people leave the labour force, Munro says any efforts to increase Nova Scotia’s population is positive.
“We need the people. There’s potentially a bleak future ahead of us unless we start to tackle some of these problems,” said Munro.
Nova Scotia’s average age is 44.2 years, compared to the national average age of 41.9, and Munro said if that trend continues, “we would end up in a not too distant future in which people who are typically beyond working age would make up a historically unseen and very large share of our population.”
He said that means fewer people in the labour force and more people consuming expensive health care services.
“There’s no silver bullet to any of these problems. But, you know, we’re going to see lots of experimentation with different programs,” he said.
In 2020, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage chose to capitalize on the remote work trend as a way to increase population.
According to Census data, 2021 saw 4.2 million Canadians working from home. This is a 223 per cent increase from 2016, when 1.3 million worked from home.
The department launched the “Work from Nova Scotia” campaign. These tourism-style videos highlighted the province’s beautiful scenery with the tagline, “If you can do your job from anywhere, do it from here.” The campaign, which ended in March 2022, promoted Nova Scotia throughout Canada at a time when tourism marketing and visitor attraction was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2,100 who moved here from other provinces to work from home was just a small part of the 23,015 overall interprovincial migration into Nova Scotia from 2020 to 2021.
“We’ve had this great increase in immigration, great increase in population, which is exactly what we said we wanted,” said Munro.
“Now, I think all of us probably were a little bit caught by surprise by the magnitude of our success in pushing that goal forward, which means that some of the things that people need, the supply didn’t catch up.”
In summer 2021, British Columbia native and real estate agent Lisa Leimanis relocated to Nova Scotia, opting to work from home on a new coast. She didn’t see the campaign videos, but she was attracted to the Maritime lifestyle.
“It’s just a much calmer place to live. Everyone’s more relaxed, everyone’s more friendly,” she said.
She soon had questions about reliable Wi-Fi and power outages due to storms.
“I definitely needed to have to move somewhere that had solid Wi-Fi. And there were a couple places that we looked at where there was no way to get that,” said Leimanis.
Munro acknowledges the problems caused by a sudden influx of newcomers, from housing shortages to growing waitlists for doctors.
The 2021 Spring Affordable Housing Report from the provincial government said there is a significant shortage of adequate and affordable housing in Nova Scotia. The average rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Halifax increased by 4.1 per cent between 2020-2021, while the cost of new houses in Nova Scotia went up 11.6 per cent, more than twice the percentage increase from the previous year.
And 120,409 Nova Scotians were on the list seeking a family doctor in November, according to the November 2022 Finding a Primary Care Provider Report.
“Let’s find a way to get more housing available quickly. Let’s find a way to get more doctors available quickly. Those are better problems to try and have to solve than, ‘Oh, our population is flatlining and we’re going to be an entirely grey-haired population in a decade facing some really, really dire economic consequences,’ ” said Munro.
In January, the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration launched an initiative to attract health care and skilled trades workers to live and work in Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia government has a goal of doubling the population to two million by 2060.
“Our goal is bold, but we need this population growth to fill the jobs that employers need filled as well as grow and diversify our economy and communities,” said Department of Labour, Skills, and Immigration spokesperson Ameeta Vohra in a statement.
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