Beyond the Headlines

"We're not giving up"

Posted: Feb 8, 2012 1:49 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 8, 2012 1:49 PM ET
The numbers tell the story. It's a story Gloria LeBlanc knows all too well.  
LeBlanc, a retired nurse, lives in Belle Cote. Her village is smack in the middle of what Statistics Canada calls Inverness County, Subdivision A.  In the census report released Wednesday, that part of Cape Breton saw the second largest drop in population in Canada for municipalities with a population greater than 5,000.

In 2006, the area, which stretches from Inverness to north of Cheticamp, had a population of 5,859. In 2011 it had shrunk to 5,280; a growth rate of minus 9.9%.
LeBlanc, who is also a councillor for the municipality, has watched her community become smaller and older.
She's watched her own children move away. LeBlanc has four grown children; one lives in Vancouver, one in Ontario and one works for Michelin Tire in Pictou County. Only her daughter, a nurse -"nurses have no problem finding work " - still lives in the county.
"Every family is the same," says LeBlanc. "Their children get their education and they are looking for a decent paying job. Most of them have heavy debts to pay after they finish college, so they have to find jobs in Halifax, Toronto or wherever."
And it's not just young people right out of school who are leaving. LeBlanc says some of the men who commute back and forth to the oil sands, get tired of that life, and move their families once they get settled. She says she has seen several families move "lock, stock and barrel" to Alberta.
But LeBlanc isn't ready to throw in the towel.
"Just because our population is going down, we're not giving up, not by any means," says LeBlanc, "we need some type of industry to complement the environment we have."
She points to some of the positive steps the region is taking to try to create jobs.

There is the new Cabot Links golf course, and its plan to build a luxury resort. There's the growth of Celtic Colours, and the tourists it brings. And the county is working to improve the Margaree River system to try to restore its reputation as a top notch destination for trout and salmon fishermen.
In spite of the numbers, LeBlanc sees signs of hope.

"I know there is a shortage of people, I realize that, but I still think people will come back." In fact, she says two families, with young children, have recently moved back to her district.
"The people of Inverness county are a breed of our own," says LeBlanc, "everybody helps everyone else, and we are not about to let our decline in population snuff this part of the county out."
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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