The Sunshine Coast Credit Union brought in a leading economist last week to look at the future of the coast’s business environment, and he said the job has been made harder by changes to the national census.
Helmut Pastrick, Chief Economist at Central 1 Credit Union in Vancouver, said many statistics have to be used “with some caution” because the federal Conservative government changed the rules for the 2011 census, so that the long-form census is no longer compulsory.
This change meant that many people refused to take part, he told an audience at the Raven’s Cry Theatre.
The provincial and national refusal rate on the long form census was 26 per, but the refusal rate on the Sunshine Coast was 36 per cent.
The results gathered by Statistics Canada show a loss of 1,700 jobs on the coast — compared with five years earlier — with about 5,000 coast residents working off-coast. But Pastrick said these figures are suspect: “We just don’t know.”
Pastrick said interim data shows a dropping population on the coast over the past several years, after decades of growing faster than the BC population. He expects a similar pattern of faster growth on the coast once economic conditions improve.
Housing sales on the coast were up 20 to 25 per cent in the first half of this year, he said, but that was compared to a particularly bad year in 2013. And there has been an increase in private construction building permits so far this year after a sharp drop in 2013, Pastrick said.
It is the opposite in public building construction. Pastrick said the public sector construction spiked in 2013 — with projects like the St. Mary’s Hospital expansion and the new Gibsons elementary school — but has since dropped off. John Gibbs