In June the Halifax Partnership published the fifth annual edition of the Halifax Index. This followed the approval by Halifax Regional Council in April of Halifax’s Economic Growth Plan 2016-21.
The Index provides a useful compilation of facts and figures about Halifax, its past and future trends, and how it compares to a number of other Canadian cities. Perhaps more importantly, though, it represents a means of tracking progress as the city strives towards the ambitious future envisioned in the Growth Plan. To borrow a sports metaphor – we are in the middle of the baseball season, after all – the Index is Halifax’s box score.
Just as the Blue Jays have their top line numbers – wins for the season, runs in a game – our top level focus for Halifax is on growing the economy (GDP) and increasing the population.
In addition to these headline figures, though, are many other factors that are key indicators and drivers of success.
The keenest baseball fans are attuned to on-base percentages, earned run averages, and strikeout-to-walk ratios. In the Halifax Index, we drill down in four broad areas: people, the economy, quality of place, and sustainability.
In pursuit of the population growth objective, are we attracting and retaining immigrants? Are our young people finding employment here and putting down roots, rather than heading west?
Which sectors of the economy are poised for growth? Do consumers have more money in their pockets compared to last year? How confident is the business community about their prospects for the future?
Do residents and business owners view Halifax as the kind of community in which they want to stay, invest, and grow? Do they feel safe? How many citizens are suffering from economic distress or serious health issues?
Are we on a sustainable path? Is the city core at risk of hollowing out? Are our transportation networks keeping pace with needs?
There are among the many factors we track and report on in the Index. An additional feature in this year’s edition is a special focus on rural Halifax. A winning baseball team needs good players in the infield and in the outfield. Similarly, a strong, successful Halifax requires growth in both its urban and rural areas.
A baseball manager will review the box score data to determine which pitchers will get to start, how players should be placed in the batting order, and who will get brought up from the minors. Get these strategic decisions right, and you are on the way to the pennant.
The 2016 Index, tells us, for example, that workforce participation rates have been declining and labour force growth has been modest. This in turn tells us that we need to redouble our efforts to attract and retain immigrants and youth. Success on that front will grow our population, and our economy along with it. And that is how Halifax ultimately gets the win.
For all of Halifax’s stats, download a copy of the 2016 Halifax Index at www.halifaxindex.com.
Ian Munro is Chief Economist at the Halifax Partnership