© Cory Hurley
Matthew Pinsent with the provincial population growth strategy speaks at a public consultation in Corner Brook on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — What was revealed at Corner Brook’s public consultation for the population growth strategy should have been of little surprise to most people.
However, about 25 people gathered in the city in hopes of helping shape a strategy to make a change to the declining population in Newfoundland and Labrador. When the provincial death rate is higher than the birth rate, a resolve is required.
One of the keys to increasing the population is the availability of employment. The people in attendance Monday evening — through an interactive polling exercise — overwhelmingly felt low-paying jobs and seasonal or temporary employment were the biggest issues facing the labour market.
Remzi Cej, program and policy development specialist with the provincial population growth strategy, said the challenges of seasonal work have been a theme throughout the sessions held across the province. The consultation in Corner Brook was the ninth of 11 being held.
One unnamed skilled trades worker in attendance said he and his wife, a business administration graduate, struggle to find work in the province. He has found seasonal or temporary work on some of the major projects, such as the new Corner Brook City Hall and the chalets at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland. His wife has struggled to retain steady employment, especially at a wage she considered acceptable. However, they both want to stay in the province and raise their family, rather than leave for the prospects of steadier employment and financial stability.
It is something Cej said he has heard regularly across the province.
Meanwhile, the top two reasons identified as to why people are deciding to have children later in life were financial and professional ambitions.
The suggestions as to how to combat that trend or to raise the birth rate included supports for family-friendly initiatives or policies revolving around chid care and programs as well as women’s recruitment and retention in the workplace.
Ideas centred around such topics as a more frequent pre-kindergarten program and all-day kindergarten, as well as more affordable or adequate daycare.
With the cost of education and the financial burden of student loans, young couples are faced with the dilemma of reaching those professional aspirations in order to eventually afford to raise a family. Suggestions of decreased debt from education, including the implementation of grant programs, and more affordable housing were raised.
The consultations continue with a session this evening in Stephenville at the Day’s Inn from 6:30-9 p.m. They wrap up with a session in Grand Falls-Windsor Wednesday.
In addition to the consultations, the province has set up a website — www.nl.gov.ca/populationgrowth — where the discussion paper can be found and public feedback can be submitted. It has also set up a site on the blogging platform Tumblr with relevant links and resources, which can be accessed online at www.nlpopulationgrowth.tumblr.com. People can also provide feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.