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Regional context of community growth

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Some regions have boomed in recent years, while some communities within those regions have experienced demographic decline. One in three communities was in continuous demographic decline from 1981 to 2001, and most of those (65%) were also in regions with a shrinking population. In 2001, 9% of Canada’s population lived in these declining communities.

A recent study took standard geographic units—census divisions to represent regions and census consolidated sub-divisions to represent communities—and analysed community population trends in relation to regional population trends and regional context. Demographic decline means the population fell in at least three of the four censuses taken from 1981 to 2001.

Regional context matters. In 2001, 43% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador resided in declining communities within declining regions. Communities in rural regions not adjacent to metropolitan areas and in rural northern regions are not as likely to be growing. In Canada’s rural north, nearly two out of three communities are located in regions showing demographic decline.

Map 15.2  Canada’s growing/declining communities in growing/declining regions, 1981 to 2001

But not all communities mirror the pattern of their region. For example, even though only 20% of the communities in the rural north are in a growing region, 29% of them are growing, due in part to the rising Aboriginal population.

Declining communities have a high share of their work force in primary industries, such as agriculture, and in manufacturing related to natural resources. Both are substituting machinery for labour and shedding jobs, which contributes to the demographic decline of these communities.