Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's population growing faster than it has in decades

Nova Scotia's population is the highest it's ever been, thanks to an increased number of people moving to the province from outside and inside the country.

Latest numbers from province put population at 957,600 as of Oct. 1

The Provincial Nominee Program, which speeds up the immigration process for immigrants who have skills or experience Nova Scotia is looking for, accepted more than 1,450 nominations, its highest intake ever. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia is growing faster than it has in years, thanks to an increase in the number of people arriving from inside and outside the country.

But the province's population likely won't hit the 1-million mark any time soon. 

The population reached an all-time high of 957,600 on Oct. 1, according to the latest quarterly data released by Statistics Canada and analyzed by the province. That's just over 5,200 more people compared to the same time last year.

It's more good news for a province that has already experienced a turnaround after welcoming more immigrants, specifically Syrian refugees.

Still, a policy analyst with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council said the data offers a snapshot that will change over time. 

"It's obvious that it's showing a higher rate, but will that rate be sustained? I guess that's the big question mark," said Fred Bergman.

Fastest growth since 1980s

Bergman pointed to three main factors driving growth — immigration, inter-provincial migration and more non-permanent residents, such as international students attending university this quarter.

There were also more births than deaths in the last few months — something that's become a rarity in a province where deaths typically outpace births, he said. 

(Nova Scotia Quarterly Population Estimates/Nova Scotia Government)

An influx of 3,700 people between July and October also made it the fastest growth since the mid-1980s.

For people like Thomas Storring, director of economics and statistics for the provincial Finance Department, that's good news.

"Some provinces take that for granted. Their populations grow every quarter. That's not the case in Nova Scotia," said Storring.

Canadians moving east

Due to the downturn in the oil and energy industries in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia has recently seen more Canadians move here and that continued this quarter.

Nova Scotia's net migration — the total increase in new arrivals once the number of people who left are accounted for — was 827 between July and October. Those arrivals were from every province in Canada except Prince Edward Island.

That means for the first time since 2003, more people moved to Nova Scotia in the third quarter than left.

(Nova Scotia Quarterly Population Estimates/Nova Scotia Government)

"That's not a very common phenomenon here," said Storring.

However, Nova Scotia continues to fall behind when compared with other provinces. It grew by 0.39 per cent this quarter, slightly less than the national average of just under half a per cent.

But Storring said, "We're narrowing the gap in that pace of growth. That is different."

Peak population?

Storring expects a continued uptick in population in the next couple years, but doesn't predict that Nova Scotia will reach one million in the next decade.

Fred Bergman is a senior policy analyst with APEC, a think-tank that focuses on economic progress in Atlantic Canada. (APEC)

In fact, population trends produced by the Nova Scotia government estimate that by 2025, about 961,650 people will live here. As baby boomers die, that number will begin to drop, said Storring.

Population growth is a fickle thing, said Bergman. 

"Given that energy prices tend to be volatile, there is a good chance they'll go up again, and some of those gains that we've had over the last couple of years will unfortunately disappear," he said.