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Kingston Needs More People

An introduction to population growth and why it is advantageous for Kingston

Ever wonder why every city/town/village/hamlet in North America posts their population count on signs that lead into their city? It’s part of their brand. If you are big and growing, you attract more capital, talent, and immigrants. If you are small, staying the same or shrinking, competitor communities win the vibrant new education funding, new hospitals, and public/private community amenity investments. The flywheel of population growth can sustain its momentum for a few years on its own, but if not constantly pushed by all residents of a community to spin faster, the flywheel will slow, and the results are not pretty, think Detroit or North Bay.

Statistics Canada reports that we grew Kingston’s population a meager 7.1% over the past five years.  That’s just 1.4% per year, barely 1,700 people, or about the number of fans who could sit in the Leon’s Centre stands from the goal line to the blue line. That’s not OK. To even keep up with our peer cities of Guelph, Peterborough, Whitby, and Oshawa we must compete to win new Kingstonians at a much faster pace. Failing to do so by putting unnecessary friction on our population growth flywheel, or failing to regularly push on it, will cause our growth to stall out.

Population growth helps all Kingston residents, adding more value, services, and amenities to make our community better serviced and more vibrant. As the City of Kingston puts it, “Kingston’s competitive position and economic outlook is directly linked to population growth.” Growing cities attract talent and community investment. Static or shrinking cities bleed human talent and lose out on government funding and economic investments.

Pierre Cleroux, the Business Development Bank of Canada’s VP, Research and Chief Economist shared during a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon, “Not enough people are entering the workforce to replace those leaving to retire.” Population growth and specifically international immigration can address this issue. Simply put we need to win more immigrants to Kingston because we have a lot of jobs to fill. If we don’t, those jobs could move to places that do attract new talent.

Population growth is good for Kingston, but some residents still ask “Why would I want more people in our city? What’s in it for me?”. Through the increased workforce that population growth brings, our community gets more access to goods and services. More neighbours mean more customers for local businesses. More neighbours mean greater cultural diversity.

Ultimately, annual population growth tells the world that of all the cities an individual or family could choose, Kingston is on the move, and growing prosperity can be found here. This is the best place to choose to create a great life!

In the coming series of posts, we’ll examine the urgent issue of Kingston’s slow population growth, why we’re not keeping up, and how to speed it up.

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