Grand Bank mayor alarmed by province’s demographic trends

Burin Peninsula’s population projected at just over 15,000 by 2036

Paul Herridge editor@southerngazette.ca 
Published on October 27, 2016
A presentation on population trends in Newfoundland and Labrador has left Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews concerned about the future of communities on the Burin Peninsula and around the province.

Matthews attended Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador’s (MNL) conference in St. John’s last month where Memorial University professor Keith Storey discussed the most recent data on the province’s demographics.

Unsurprisingly, the population is projected to continue its steady decline in rural areas.

“The births are decreasing. The death rates are increasing. You’ve got major outmigration that’s going on, especially in rural Newfoundland. Urban areas are doing pretty well, but even they, too, are suffering some issues,” Matthews told fellow councillors during this week’s meeting.

Before the impact of 1992’s cod moratorium, the Burin Peninsula’s population peaked at roughly 30,000.

Statistics from 2011 put the number of residents in the region at just over 21,000.

According to Storey’s presentation, 10 years from now, in 2026, the population is projected to drop to approximately 18,500, and in 2036, just 20 years away, there will be just over 15,000 people living on the Burin Peninsula.

It doesn’t bode well for the people who remain, Matthews said, pointing out their taxes will have to skyrocket to pay for services and infrastructure upgrades.

“Is the day going to come when Grand Bank is going to apply for (project funding) and (the provincial government) is going to come back and say, ‘Listen, it can’t happen. You guys are not going to have the population to pay for this in 10 years’ time’?” Matthews wondered.

Less people will mean it will also be more difficult to form municipal councils, already a problem in many communities in the province, he said.

Coun. Travis Parsons said, in his opinion, the changing demographics is the biggest issue facing the province.

“The only thing that could make any difference is some sort of amazing diversification of the economy, but you’re really stretching at that point. Right now, all your eggs are in one basket,” he said.

Parsons said he knows of many young people from the Burin Peninsula living to St. John’s who would return if the same opportunities for employment were available.

“It all comes back to industry, right?” he said.