I probably deal with Statistics Canada as much as just about anyone. I purchase CANSIM data on a weekly basis and I have The Daily as one of my Internet home pages. It would be nice if Statistics Canada economists and spokespersons had even a basic understanding of economic development. Consider it a kind of sensitivity training for economists.
The reason I think this is necessary is that of the hundreds of quotes coming from Stats Can economists about ‘demographic’ challenges, I don’t think I have ever heard one say something as simple as “the economy needs to create more jobs in order to address the demographic challenges”.
And journalists go to them reflexively because they are considered to be credible. Consider this story on the CBC website. The story is about the population decline in Saint John.
According to the latest census, Fredericton and Moncton grew by more than five per cent between 2001 and 2006. But Saint John’s population fell by 0.2 per cent. Marc Melanson, a regional adviser with Statistics Canada, said although the drop in population might seem insignificant, it’s worth paying attention to. “Of the 33 [census metropolitan areas in the country], Saint John is one of only two that lost population,” Melanson said. Saguenay, Que., was the other, dropping by 2.1 per cent. According to the census, women in Saint John are having on average 1.45 children. But for a population to replace itself, he says that number needs to increase to 2.1 children per woman. Melanson said immigration is the best way for Saint John to reverse the trend. “We’re typically Canadian born, white people, speak English. I mean that’s what Saint John looks like,” he said.
Now, most will say I am being petty but this is not isolated. Why wouldn’t Melanson at least make a simple link between the economic problems in Saint John over the past 10-15 years and population decline? Moving to the immigration card is standard fare but way to simplistic.
If Saint John’s energy hub takes hold, if good paying jobs are increasing – people will move to Saint John. Sure, they will need to promote the area and be focused on attracting immigrants but the jobs must be there or coming first.
Statistics Canada economists should know this more than anyone. In the future, it would be nice to hear or read a Stats Can economist saying something like this:
“It is a common misconception to blame population decline in places like Saint John on women not having children or other demographic factors. However, based on the experience in fast growing cities across Canada, population decline is much more correlated with economic challenges than fertility rates. The evidence is clear in hundreds of communities across North America. Cities that have dynamic and growing employment opportunties are attracting workers and countering the fertility drop. These workers are coming from both migration and immigration.”
“I, as a celebrated Statistics Canada economist, would suggest that Saint John focus its energies on fostering high quality employment opportunities and based on the experience elsewhere, I think the demographic challenges will be far easier to address.” “Saint John will still need to work on people attraction but it will have the necessary economic foundation to attract them.”
Don’t hold your breath. I have never saw this.