Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week
Kamloops and region need to gear up for a decline in population growth, as well as a future in which the area has one adult over 65 for every two adults in the workforce.
A report from B.C. Business Council released last week found the province’s population increase is slowing from robust growth of the 1980s and 1990s. The report details a slowing in population growth that reached 2.6 per cent a year in the early 1990s to less than one per cent today.
By 2027, the natural growth in population is forecast to fall to zero, with growth coming only from immigration from other provinces and countries.
A long trend of declining rural population is expected to continue, with growth focused in the four metro areas of Greater Vancouver, Greater Victoria, Central Okanagan and Fraser Valley.
Author Ken Peacock said Kamloops shares some urban aspects with those core areas and can expect to attract northerners looking for warmer climes, as well as Greater Vancouver residents seeking lower housing prices and an end to gridlock commutes.
The scenario in Kamloops for an aging population falls between the extremes seen in some parts of the province.
The report finds by 2030, there will be 53 people aged 65-plus for every 100 in the working-age population of 25-64 in the Thompson-Nicola region. That compares to a low of 30 in Peace River to a high of 81 in the Sunshine Coast — approaching nearly a 1:1 ratio.
“Kamloops is not too far off the provincial average,” he said. “I think the same challenges the province faces also apply to the region. By 2030, it’s [Thompson-Nicola] a little older than the provincial average.”
Peacock also noted what is expected to a be a continuing decline in Kamloops in the number of people aged one to 24, bottoming out in five years. That will have continuing negative enrolment impact on schools and at Thompson Rivers University.
“Your region is a little better off, if aging demographics creates challenges, than a lot of other places,” Peacock said.
The current growth in the number of working-age adults is .3 per cent a year — half the provincial average.
With one person 65-plus living in Kamloops for every two in the working population, Peacock said urban planners and builders will have to look at a future with more compact housing close to shopping and amenities because seniors will demand it.
Venture Kamloops executive director Jim Anderson said the low population growth scenario outlined in the report “is something we’ve been preparing for.”
The city’s economic-development arm is in the midst of a labour market plan looking out to 2025.
“We’re trying to determine what this aging demographic will do to the labour force,” Anderson said.
The large population of retirees in the region will also present challenges for the Interior Health Authority. The average age in every part of the IHA’s territory is higher than the provincial average. Peacock said studies have shown the highest cost of health care is in the last two years of life.