Rankin MacSween points to P.E.I.’s success in attracting immigrants
By Wendy Martin, CBC News
A candidate for mayor in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality chose the picturesque but struggling community of Louisbourg, N.S., to unveil his plan for stemming the region’s population decline by increasing immigration.
The CBRM is shrinking by about 1,000 people annually.
Rankin MacSween told a group of supporters at the Louisbourg Fire Hall on Friday that it’s like losing a town the size of Louisbourg year after year.
“As a community, we are in a crisis,” said MacSween. “And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”
Losing people, losing schools
He pointed to the decision this spring by the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board to close 17 schools over the next few years because of declining student enrolments.
MacSween said that, if elected, he would allocate $1 million a year from the municipal budget to try to reverse the population decline, by attracting more immigrants.
He wants to copy Prince Edward Island’s lead in developing a settlement strategy.
“As we’re in decline, they’re growing,” MacSween told about 40 supporters at his announcement.
P.E.I. had the largest population growth in Atlantic Canada over the 10-year period beginning in 2005, up 6.0 per cent to 146,283 in 2014.
That’s due in large part to people moving to P.E.I. from other countries, notably China.
“What’s also notable is that the data points to the fact that those immigrants have done a marvelous job of creating economic opportunity as they’ve come,” MacSween said.
He said while there are a couple of provincially funded positions in the CBRM to welcome newcomers to the area, there’s no one working actively to attract immigrants.
He sees that as a “critical” priority and said it would be worth the municipal investment.
Immigration vs. port development
“I mean, my priority is not to hire political staff. My priority is not to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars around some vague concept around the port, to spend that money on legal fees, and studies and consultants,” MacSween said.
That’s a clear reference to the incumbent mayor, Cecil Clarke, who has made the development of Sydney’s port and the construction of a container terminal his top economic priority.
Jean Bagnell of Louisbourg says she welcomes any plan that might help reinvigorate the community.
“When I was a kid growing up, we had shipping here. The place was going and going, bus service and the trains, and all that went down the way,” said Bagnell.
Municipal and school board elections will be held across Nova Scotia on Oct. 15, 2016.