A demographic shift is happening in Northern Ontario and Rainy River District is among the areas experiencing one of the most severe declines in population.
While Ontario, as a whole, has grown by 25 percent since 1996, the population of Rainy River District has dropped by just over 13 percent and the decline is projected to continue, according to the latest research by the Northern Policy Institute (NPI).
Population and migration trends show Northern Ontario needs 50,000 newcomers by 2041 just to sustain its current level of population.
“We absolutely need growth,” stressed NPI commentary author Christina Zefi. “We can’t just stay stagnate and plateauing the way it has been.
“‘Baby-boomers’ are coming into retirement in the next five to 10-15 years and as that happens, the working age population begins to shrink,” she noted.
“So with the population becoming older and there being less working-age people, there will certainly be a shortage of workers as well as people to support the dependent,” Zefi added.
The population of Northern Ontario is experiencing a demographic shift that stems from natural aging, low fertility rates, increasing life expectancy, and an increase in people leaving this part of the province.
Much of the population that is leaving are working-age youth aged 20-29.
To address this issue, the NPI recently released part one of a four-part commentary that demonstrates the need for a Northern Newcomer Strategy to sustain the region’s population.
What the Northern Newcomer Strategy might look like will be addressed in parts three and four of the commentary series, which will be released in the coming months.
Part thee of the commentaries will look at policy implementations that can be made at the federal and provincial level to give Northern Ontario the tools it needs to attract and retain newcomers.
The fourth part of the strategy will look at step-by-step actions that municipalities can take to increase their newcomer population based on best practices from other communities.
“I just think that Northern Ontario hasn’t kept up, unfortunately, with attracting immigrants the same way that the rest of the province has,” Zefi noted.
She is hoping the commentaries will demonstrate the need for a strategy that can have an impact on government policy so northern communities like Rainy River District can have the tools needed to attract and retain newcomers.
“I hope that there is a case made for Northern Ontario at the provincial and federal level so that some changes can be made there,” Zefi said.