Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Its Population Shrinking, Newfoundland and Labrador Aims to Lure Back Diaspora

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Its Population Shrinking, Newfoundland and Labrador Aims to Lure Back Diaspora

Article excerpt

Newfoundland aims to lure back its diaspora

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Bill Hodder says he would leave Calgary to move back to Newfoundland and Labrador "in a heartbeat."

He loved growing up in Churchill Falls, the small company town of about 650 people that runs the Labrador hydroelectric plant on the upper Churchill River.

His father, sister and many of his cousins now live in St. John's.

"Home is where your family is," said Hodder, 40. "If a job was there, it'd be no question we'd move back home."

Hodder, a project co-ordinator who has worked in the B.C. mining sector and Alberta's oilsands, is part of the easternmost province's ever-growing diaspora of residents who leave for all kinds of reasons, most of them economic.

The governing Liberals want to bring them back.

New come-home efforts announced include four "expatriate outreach events" in Canada and the United Kingdom, along with an online survey conducted by management consulting firm Goss Gilroy Inc.

It will ask respondents why they left and identify "the conditions necessary to facilitate their return," Al Hawkins, the minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, said in a statement.

The Conference Board of Canada has predicted the total number of residents will slide from about 529,000 now to around 482,000 by 2035 without an influx of newcomers and major new capital projects.

The lack of population growth was among the factors in a CRTC recommendation this week to put off 10-digit dialing indefinitely. A new 879 area code was to be introduced this year, but the Telecommunications Alliance industry group said "there is currently no need" for it.

Hodder was in his early 20s when he finished a mechanical engineering technology course in St. John's and tried for two months to find work.

"The difference between Alberta and the way Newfoundland works is Newfoundland was always built on connections and who you knew," he said in an interview. "It was very hard to break into the work force.

"But when you came out here to Alberta, the first thing they'd notice is, this guy has this education. He doesn't have any experience but if we hire him on, we train him the way we want. …

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