According to a recent factsheet prepared by the Rural Ontario Institute entitled “Change in non-metro population 2014” less than half of the rural counties in Ontario had population increases over the last three years. Over the same period, however, all urban counties experienced population increases.
Ray Bollman the author of the factsheet highlights the long term importance of population change to a community:
“Population growth or decline impacts housing demand, labour markets, consumer spending levels and the need for public services such as hospitals and schools. Population growth is considered by many as an indicator of economic vitality – i.e. jobs are being created and/or that it is a desirable place to live.”
A great question to ask is, what are the reasons for these rural counties experiencing population decline?
In a related factsheet (Components of non-metro population change 2014) the Rural Ontario Institute discusses some of these issues including that in 2014 only 30% of rural counties in Ontario had more births than deaths, down 74% from counties in 1996. The factsheet also mentions that in the past, typically rural counties have gained population based on migration of people from other areas of Ontario but that this trend has be decreasing.
So what can communities experiencing population decline do?
The Community Immigrant Retention in Rural Ontario (CIRRO) program is a strategic planning process designed to assist communities in developing and implementing a newcomer attraction and retention strategy. The tools and resources are designed to raise awareness, stimulate thinking and provide practical suggestions on how to put newcomer attraction and retention ideas into action. For more information on the CIRRO program and to access the resources please visit http://www.omaf.gov.on.ca/english/rural/edr/cirro/index.html
It is important to highlight that rural counties are not uniform as the factsheet states that since 2006 five rural Ontario counties (Haliburton, Muskoka, Manitoulin, Northumberland and Renfrew) have all had continuous population growth.