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Provincial pulse

Latest issue of Vital Signs focuses on rural and urban differences

By Zaren Healey White

Imagine if all of rural Newfoundland and Labrador was a village of 100 people.

How would that look in terms of the age of the villagers, the type of work they undertake and how they spend their time? If you’re having trouble picturing it, don’t worry — you can always just take a look at the latest edition of Vital Signs, an illustrated, cross-province look at the state of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Quality of life indicators

A partnership between the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (CFNL) and Memorial’s Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, the Vital Signs report showcases quality of life indicators in the province. The report is part of a broader national program of the Community Foundations of Canada.

In this edition of Vital Signs, you’ll find all kinds of interesting charts and graphics, but also many stories. You’ll learn what a Mental Health Association regional office re-opening means for inmates of the West Coast Correctional Centre, and how a family of newcomers from Syria are settling in to their new home in Gander. From the aging population to housing, from inclusion to accessibility, Vital Signs focuses on what it means to live in rural and urban parts of the province.

Village of 100
If the population of Newfoundland and Labrador outside the St. John’s area was made up of 100 people.
City of 100
If the population of the St. John’s area was made up of 100 people.

“To prepare for this year’s edition, we spoke to community members about what they would like to see us cover,” said Ainsley Hawthorn, executive director, Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. “One topic that kept coming up over and over again is the difference between rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador.

“When we look at different topics, such as the economy, health, and housing, we can miss some of the important ways those issues differ depending on where you live and how you are connected to communities around you.”

In this report, researchers break down concepts of rural and urban into categories that help characterize different regions of the province. For example, a first-level rural region has a population ranging from 2,000-8,000 spread across a sparsely populated area with some industrial diversity, whereas a third-level rural place is remote, has 45-600 people and residents typically travel to get most goods and services. The challenges and opportunities that affect different types of rural regions can be very different, although there are also a number of issues that affect regions provincewide.

Retaining newcomers

One of the major issues for the majority of the province is demographics. Dr. Halina Sapeha is a public engagement post-doctoral Fellow with the Harris Centre, the Community Foundation of N.L., and Memorial’s Department of Economics.

 “There’s potential for the province, actually, to grow its population and increase its younger population.” –Dr. Halina Sapeha

Dr. Sapeha worked extensively on this year’s Vital Signs report. Dr. Sapeha says the report points to some of the challenges around the rapidly aging population, but it also highlights some opportunities. She points to attracting immigrants as a great opportunity to grow the population and the labour force.

“When it comes to refugees, the retention rate hasn’t really improved,” Dr. Sapeha explained. “It’s an important issue — refugee families tend to arrive with two, three, or even four children,”  “There’s potential for the province, actually, to grow its population and increase its younger population. That’s why it’s so important to figure out how to improve retention rates.”

As part of a unique partnership with TC Media, the full report will be circulated in every copy of the Telegram and TC Media’s regional newspapers starting Oct. 8. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts using the hashtag #VitalSignsNL.

The report can be viewed online and was made possible with the support of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, Crosbie Group Limited, YMCA of Newfoundland and Labrador, Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Home Builders’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine.

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