Analysis: Rural Halifax

Last year’s Index contained a special analysis entitled “A Rural Halifax Profile.” This is now a standard part of the document. 

We are currently in year two of Halifax’s Economic Growth Plan 2016-21. The plan identifies quality of life as one of the core components of the city’s value proposition due in part to the unique “big city” amenities and “small town” feel afforded residents. There are few cities in Canada that can match the rural-urban lifestyle that Halifax offers. 

However, rural Halifax communities face a major challenge: they can be overshadowed by an emphasis on the urban core. In reality, Halifax has the largest rural share of total population (19.8%) among cities with a population above 250,000, with a distant second place going to St. Catharines-Niagara (11.3%). 

Rural and urban parts of Halifax are characterized by different types of businesses. Rural businesses largely fall under professional services, other services, and construction sectors, apart from the Eastern Rural area, which has a large agriculture, fishing and forestry sector as seen in the graph below. With approximately 45-60% of rural businesses in professional or other services, access to broadband communications networks is crucial. 

Related concerns have been voiced by business owners: the Partnership's April 2017 SmartBusiness Quarterly Report noted that 39% of Halifax business owners listed internet/broadband as a top-three issue for their operation. This is up significantly since April 2015, when internet/broadband was considered a concern by only 11% of business owners. 

Many rural regions do not have access to broadband internet services. Within Halifax’s boundaries, four communities will receive $300,000 for the installation of new towers and extension of fibre cables. The approved communities in Halifax were Watt Section, Harrigan Cove, Moser River and Goffs-Devon, with funding announced for 17 other rural communities across Nova Scotia. Additional Federal funding has been provided through the Connect to Innovate program.

Rural analysis chart

 

rural analysis chart 2

This program mainly focuses on building backbone infrastructure, as well as last mile connections to homes and businesses in rural and remote communities. Communities in rural Halifax have already applied and successful applications will be announced this summer.

Rural communities must often get creative to create local economic opportunities as they do not have the amenities that the urban core does. For instance, the Musquodoboit Harbour & Area Chamber of Commerce & Civil Affairs worked with the community to establish a Visioning Action Plan. This will enable all members of the community to work together towards a cohesive plan which takes into account new economic opportunities, street scaping, planning, recreation, and more. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has raised $7 million to protect islands between Clam Harbour and Mushaboom Harbour, and the Wild Island Tourism Advancement Partnership (WITAP) has been working to create a sustainable tourism industry along the area from Musquodoboit Harbour to Sherbrooke by promoting the area while preserving the land. To date, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust has protected 80% of this land, totalling over 7,000 acres. Thanks to the efforts of WITAP Local Chambers of Commerce and other community groups, 100 Wild Islands will foster opportunities for tourism companies and entrepreneurs.

Blasting has begun at the Moose River Gold Mines and 140 workers have been hired as part of the Touquoy Gold Project. It is hoped hundreds more will be hired to work on four upcoming projects. The first two projects are expected to yield 720,000 ounces of gold, and if all four projects are successful, the company expects to extract 1.2 million ounces of gold in total.

Resource Capital Gold Corp. is re-opening the Dufferin gold mine near Sheet Harbour and it owns the nearby Tangier and Forest Hill gold mines. The Dufferin Mine has completed a preliminary economic assessment that projects 216,050 ounces will be recovered over the anticipated 10-year life of the mine. A preliminary economic assessment is expected to be completed for both the Tangier and Forest Hill gold mines in 2017.