"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Danny Williams Effect revisited

The latest StatsCan population figures are out. This graph shows the quarterly population change for Newfoundland and Labrador since 1990, including the figures released today:

There will be a lot more attention paid to the quarterly population growth in the latest reported quarter, the first since — well, since the last quarter of 2003, and the last of the Grimes administration.

That would be the government that Danny Williams vilified in 2002 on the outmigration issue.

(Some media outlets have reported, incorrectly, that this is the first population increase since 1992. It is also the first net in-migration quarter since 1992, but remember there are four components to population change. The population briefly showed population growth in 2003, despite net out-migration, due to natural increase and relatively low net out-migration.)

What did not get as much attention, however, was the steep, and steepening, rate of population decline that attended the first fourteen quarters of the Williams years. Just look at the previous quarter: a population drop 2200 or 2300, larger than the entire population of Wabush. It barely made a blip in public opinion or the media coverage.

How odd, that outmigration and population loss should have been such a (negatively) defining issue for Grimes at a time when the situation was actually improving.

How odder, that outmigration and population loss, or demographic trends generally, should not have become such an issue for Williams until the trend, at least for one quarter, reversed.

If the "Williams Effect" is responsible for economic and demographic trends in the province... why did it only become so responsible in the fifteenth quarter of the Williams era?

Whose "effect" was responsible for the previous fourteen?

And, a final, cautionary note: outmigration, and even net outmigration, has been a demographic fact in Newfoundland and Labrador since well before Confederation. In the Confederation era, there have been several, brief, periods of net interprovincial in-migration.

They have had the nasty habit of coinciding with North American recessions. It's far too early to conclude that's the case here, based on one quarter... but let's watch those March and June figures.


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