ECONOMIC INSIGHTS: Leveraging our Talent, Location, and Cost

July 25, 2017

Written by: J.K. MacAdam, Economist, Halifax Partnership

Halifax is an amazing city, with the ultimate small-town feel. 

When most people think of a city, they think of countless skyscrapers, traffic jams, and people who are always rushing. This is not what comes to mind when you think of Halifax. 

Halifax has been able to leverage its laid-back culture to attract new residents and create economic growth. It continues to be the “Gold Standard” for work-life balance, and we are starting to see the fruits of our labour as shown by some of the key findings from the 2017 Halifax Index:

  • In 2016, Halifax had a record year for population growth, increasing by 2% (double Halifax’s growth in 2015). The majority of this growth was due to immigration
  • Halifax's GDP grew by 2.2% in 2016, ranking 13th out of Canada’s 28 largest cities
  • Business confidence reached an all-time high according to the Partnership’s Business Confidence Index
  • The municipality continued reducing its debt – it decreased by $5 million during the last fiscal year

How was it possible for Halifax to achieve these results last year? Halifax leveraged three major advantages: Talent, Location, and Cost (TLC) to attract people and grow business.

New immigrants can access Halifax thanks to our international airport Halifax Stanfield, they have access to some of the best educational institutions in Canada, and their cost of living is far cheaper than in Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary. 

Halifax grew steadily last year, and the largest components of this were due to growth in manufacturing and the influx of a working-age immigrants. Halifax is continuing its efforts to recruit working-age immigrants through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, a program that not only makes it easier for immigrants to move to Atlantic Canada, but also aims to boost retention by working with employers to create settlement plans for newcomers. 

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In addition to becoming more welcoming, Halifax has become much safer over the past few years with total crime in 2015 (the most recent available data) decreasing to less than half of the peak crime level that was reported in the mid-2000s. 

Finally, Halifax is one of the few major cities in Canada where you can travel from the boardroom to the beach in under 30 minutes. Other amenities such as the Halifax Central Library, Emera Oval, and Halifax Commons are easily accessible by car, bus, or foot. Residents can also spend time experiencing our many coffee shops, restaurants and microbreweries. Having so many local amenities makes it easy for residents to have a second-to-none work-life balance.

Halifax needs to keep the momentum going and build on the solid year that was 2016. Achieving comparable or larger population growth in 2017 would help the economy grow and increase our working-age tax base. Maximizing the skills that newcomers bring to our economy will help Halifax increase its productivity, boost population growth, and drive GDP growth.