The information released today indicates that 33.5 million people live in Canada and all three Maritime provinces experienced growth over the last five years.


But it also shows that rural communities are quickly losing their population to cities. 

Many people, such as Halifax resident Craig Hyson, have been forced to move from the country to an urban area for job opportunities.

“Things went down the drain,” says Hyson. “It’s a shame because I love the South Shore. My heart is there, but the work is here.”

Those who study the numbers say this is part of a national trend.

“People may think of Canada as a rural wonderland,” says Don McIver of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. “But in fact, more than two-thirds of our population in Canada live in metropolitan areas.”

Nova Scotia showed the least amount of growth of the three Maritime provinces, with an increase of just 0.9 per cent.

New Brunswick’s population increased by 2.9 per cent and Prince Edward Island showed a population increase of 3.2 per cent.

The numbers show the overall population of the Maritimes is not shrinking, but that many Maritimers are shifting from rural areas to urban ones.

“Most of the counties outside of that are losing jobs, losing people,” says McIver. “The city, as we look around, there’s quite a few cranes on the skyline.”

The city of Halifax is boasting a population growth of 4.7 per cent, but as the city’s population increases, the communities just outside the urban area are suffering.

The census shows that six of the top 25 Canadian communities losing people are from southwestern Nova Scotia.

Digby has been one of the hardest hit areas.

“I’m not totally surprised,” says Digby resident Jack Turnbull. “I think with the aging population and the lack of work, a few of the industries shutting down and not being replaced, I’m not surprised.”

In Annapolis County there was a drop in population of 5.3 per cent.

“The fishing industry is…gone now from here mostly,” says Annapolis Royal resident Doug Wade. “There’s no factories or jobs like that around, the elastic plant and all those places are closed up.”

Cape Breton is another loser according to the census. CBRM has the third highest drop in population growth in the country among communities with a minimum population of 10,000.

“Contrary to what some pundits and analysts were saying the region demographically speaking has certainly not turned a corner,” says political science professor Tom Urbaniak.

The same trend can be seen in New Brunswick. Moncton’s population grew by 9.7 per cent while Dieppe recorded a 25 per cent increase in growth. Saint John also benefited from the rural exodus.

“We expected that the population had been increasing,” says Saint John Mayor Ivan Court. “For example in the last 12 months I’ve actually had four swearing-ins of new citizens, so that in itself was a good indication that immigrants were moving into the city.”

One Prince Edward Island, an aggressive campaign to attract immigrants seems to be fuelling population growth and the province is now working on a strategy to get them to stay.

Many Maritimers say they aren’t surprised by the migrant population.

“If you’re not working, you can’t pay the bills,” says Hyson.

And that’s the reality that will keep people crowding into cities.


With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell