StatsCAN Plus

A data-driven case for prosperity in Atlantic Canada

December 7, 2022, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

Your municipality, your statistics

This series of articles is part of an ongoing effort by Statistics Canada to bring data to municipalities via its new Centre for Municipal and Local Data, following its established partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Check out the first two articles in the series:

As David Campbell sees it, economic growth in the Atlantic provinces has long been reliant on the right strategies to counter various challenges to growth—strategies that have always included projections and trends based on the data.

The New Brunswick native has decades of experience working with various stakeholders and levels of government to attract industry and build the surrounding communities.

He spoke with StatsCAN Plus about this experience and how using Statistics Canada data has always been a part of it.

“I used to go up to the library and get those old stats (regularly issued by Statistics Canada), and plow through them looking for interesting data on things like turnover rates and absenteeism and labour force data, to help us make the pitch for New Brunswick,” said Campbell, looking back about 30 years to when he worked in economic development for the government of New Brunswick.

“We had quite a bit of success,” he added. “We attracted a lot of industry to New Brunswick in the early days (of his career), pitching bilingual labour and the availability of young workers.”

Campbell says that, ever since, Statistics Canada data has been “one of the core sources of information” for his consulting practice. Currently, he heads up Jupia Consultants Inc., which continues its economic development work for Atlantic Canada.

He was also the chief economist for the New Brunswick government from 2015 to 2017, where he helped develop a population-growth strategy and economic development model—one he estimates has attracted over 50,000 residents to the province.

After leaving government, he worked on a project called the ‘New Conversations’ tour, which identified growth challenges for 15 regions across the province. Data from the census, as well as the labour force and job vacancies surveys indicated a generational shift.

“These are business owners (who are) going to retire in the next 10 years, maybe 15 years,” said Campbell of data about aging business owners. “But as they retire, we do not have enough young entrepreneurs in the system to take their place. So we’re going to have to bring in people to own and operate businesses—everything from veterinary services to dog grooming to coffee shops,” he added, referencing the tour, which met with stakeholders in the 15 regions, including Restigouche, Miramichi, and Chipman.

In New Brunswick and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Campbell says that immigration is the solution to filling these vacancies and attracting industry—but to be successful, immigration is needed in population centres of all sizes.

He also spoke about historical census data which indicate that a lot of housing stock in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has aged. Based on this trend and current data showing job vacancies in construction and a dip in housing starts, he says a reversal is needed.

“This is one of the most powerful data points,” he explained. “When I show it to stakeholders, that you used to build 500, 600 houses a year, and you’re only building 200…and yet, the population numbers are saying ‘You’re going to need it,’ so that sends a clear signal.”

Campbell said the increased availability of census and other survey data has assisted in his discussions with stakeholders. He has also worked with Statistics Canada to request custom tabulations of data from surveys such as Canadian Business Counts, to indicate in further detail both the number and types of businesses in communities of all sizes—, for example, if he wants “to know how many retailers there are in Stanley, New Brunswick.”

He also spoke about the importance of understanding the nature of supply chains, which can stretch across provinces and support industries from agriculture in New Brunswick to offshore oil and gas in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Campbell says it comes down to a data-driven understanding.

“We’ve got to make a very strong case for things like immigration and population growth—all across the country, in smaller communities and larger communities, in a way that we never had to do before. So (Statistics Canada is) the best source of data to help us make our case.”

Contact information

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