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A 50-50 proposition and Nova Scotia’s future

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  • July 11, 2014

Like many Catholic parishes, our little flock smack in the middle of Nova Scotia is facing a financial crunch and Canada Day serves as one of our biggest moneymakers.

The CWL sponsors a bake sale and there is a mouth-watering roast beef and salmon supper in the evening. And the parish prints a barrel full of 50-50 tickets that this time around put more than $1,100 in parish coffers.

Commissioned to sell a small share of the 50-50 cache, my neighbourhood sale stops usually began with offers of refreshments and often included conversations on the state of our fair province. What’s going to happen to Nova Scotia? Our young people are graduating from school, college and university and deserting the Bluenose province faster than the 1920s fishing schooner once outsailed its legion of competitors.

According to a July 2012 census report, the province’s population has decreased by more than 4,000 to 940,789. During the same period, the national population increased by 400,000 people to 35.1 million.

In Nova Scotia, 21,542 people moved away during 2012-13, while 15,665 from other provinces settled here, according to an article in the Chronicle Herald newspaper. Statistics Canada’s population details said growth was lower in the Atlantic region and generally higher in the West.

No kidding. Almost any eastcoast family with a son, daughter, nephew, niece or even a father or mother who is pursuing the big bucks or simply trying to earn a livelihood in the Alberta oilpatch can verify that.

Provincial premiers dismiss the numbers as normal fluctuations, up one time, down the next. Opposition leaders aspiring to the premier’s chair say that many Nova Scotians, facing a dearth of jobs and hope, have given up on the province. Is it that bad?

Ray Ivany, a university president and the chairman of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy, thinks so. In a report earlier this year, Ivany said the province “hovers on the brink of an extended period of decline.”

Because of an aging and shrinking population and very insignificant economic growth, Ivany’s report said “our economy today is barely able to support our current standards of living and public services, and will be much less so going forward unless we can reverse current trends.”

Embracing the report, politicians and other civic leaders quickly divulged ideas on how to reverse the population and economic trends. As the father of a 20-year-old son and a 17-yearold daughter, I certainly hope they achieve success in at least stemming the flow.

Anyone who has ever lived or visited here can attest that this little province is absolutely beautiful. Almost completely surrounded by water, it offers majestic vistas, quaint seaside communities, a panorama of culture and some of the most hospitable people you could ever meet. But scenery and culture, aside from generating modest tourist revenues, don’t put bread on the table.

During my ticket-selling expedition, potential buyers who were Catholic often directed the chat around to the Church. What’s going to happen with our Church? The parallels between Church and province are uncanny.

Young people are leaving the Church in search of God knows what outside the pews. Bishops, priests and other Church leaders convene meetings, seminars and gatherings to talk about what can be done to to revitalize the Church and stem the alarming tide. As the father of a son and daughter who are at best lukewarm toward what the Church has to offer, I certainly hope Church leaders and congregants achieve success in reversing the trend.

Our Catholic faith has its own beautiful spiritual vistas to offer but people born and raised in the Church continue to abandon its allure in search of something they think might be more fulfilling.

Yet, there is hope. There’s hope that the young and not-so-young Nova Scotians who have left the province to pursue a more profitable lifestyle elsewhere will eventually return to a more easygoing life in Canada’s ocean playground. But in order for that to happen, we citizens, politicians and leaders must ensure there is something worthwhile for them to return to.

And there’s hope that the young and not-so-young Catholics who have forsaken the Church will eventually return to a faith that offers hope, stability and the promise of eternal life. Again, in order for that to happen, we church-goers, clergy and other Church leaders must ensure that there is something worthwhile for the lapsed Catholics to return to.

Then, just maybe next year’s ticket-sale banter will be more optimistic.

(Campbell is an editor at the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax, N.S.)

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