Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label decline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label decline. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper and the Decline of the Forest Sector

Going through some old stuff, I came across a full newspaper from 1981 – a copy of the Tuesday June 30th edition of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal.  Examining it, one is struck by how hefty the paper was in terms of both paper volume as well as article content compared to what is currently being published.  Indeed, I put this old copy of the Chronicle-Journal on my dining room table alongside the Monday February 11th, 2019 edition for a comparison (see the photo) and the differences are quite striking.

Newspapers have indeed shrunk.  The 1981 version of the Chronicle-Journal was 15 5/8 inches (39.7 cm) wide and 22 5/8 inches (57.5 cm) long while the 2019 version is 11 ½ inches (29.2 cm) wide and 22 5/8 inches (57.5 cm) long.  More important is the thickness.  The 1981 newspaper consists of two section – each 32 pages long while the 2019 version is in two sections – each 10 pages long.  The long and short of it is that the amount of newsprint required has shrunk by over two-thirds.  Even more interesting is the fact that until the mid 1990s, Thunder Bay actually had two papers published – a morning edition which was the Chronicle-Journal and an evening edition known as the Times-News.

When what looks at what has happened to the Canadian forest sector over the last fifteen years, one only needs to take what has happened at our own local paper and extrapolate it across North America.  Newspapers have been either shrinking in size or simply going out of print completely.  There was certainly a lot more advertising in the pages of the 1981 version of the Chronicle-Journal and competition from electronic media and the internet have been important factors in the decline in the demand for newspapers.

Along with changing consumer preferences when it comes to news sources, there have been other shocks to the pulp and paper industry.  The recession of 2008-09, international newsprint and pulp competition from lower cost suppliers, a high Canadian dollar, aging capital stock and high electricity prices were all factors which helped decimate the Northwestern Ontario pulp and paper industry in the first decade of the 21st century.  Across Canada, employment in logging, pulp and paper and wood dropped by over 40 percent between 2004 and 2014 while the number of paper mills fell from 50 to 30 – also a 40 percent decline.

It is really quite remarkable that newspapers have been able to survive at all given the size of the demand and technology shocks hitting them over the last thirty years.  I must admit, that while I have adjusted to the era of e-papers, I do occasionally miss having a more hefty newspaper in hand.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The North and Ontario's Population

Well, today is election day and as we pause and wait for the results later today, why not take another look at northern Ontario's population but this time with numbers from the 2017 BMA Municipal Study.  Two items for your consideration. First, a table showing population in the major northern Ontario municipalities as well as the growth rates of their population for the period 2006 to 2011 and 2011 to 2016.  The table ranks the cities from the highest to lowest growth rates for the period 2011 to 2016 and they show that at the top are Parry Sound and Greater Sudbury.  Their populations have continued to expand and while their proximity to the GTA and its opportunities may be a factor it remains that proximity has not helped North Bay.  Also of interest is Elliot Lake which has taken to marketing itself as a retirement community.  Despite an aging population, people are not retiring to Elliot Lake in droves.

With the north not really growing while Ontario's population rises, its share of Ontario's population is also declining.  However, in this case it turns out that the North has plenty of company when it comes to shrinking population shares.  The figure below - also taken from the 2017 BMA Municipal Study (using data from the Ontario Finance Ministry) plots the population share of each of Ontario's regions since 1991 and projected to 2041.  It turns out that each region is expected to decline as a share of Ontario's population by 2041 with the exception of the GTA.  The GTA is projected to rise from 42% in 1991 to hit 53% by 2041.  As for northern Ontario - it is going from 8 percent of the population in 1991 to 4 percent by 2041.  At present it is about 7 percent.

Two things.  First, Ontario is becoming increasingly lopsided in terms of population and employment with the GTA enjoying a perpetual boom and the rest of the province with perhaps the exception of the Ottawa area undergoing a slow stagnation.   This will be a major challenge for the next government when it comes to dealing with the provincial economy.  Second, as many of you are aware, there was an increase in riding numbers for today's elections - there are now 124 seats in the legislature up for grabs.  Of those, 13 are in northern Ontario which means that 10 percent of the election ridings are in the north but only about 7 percent of the population.  Whatever northerners may think about their relative alienation and neglect by the south, it remains that their votes yield clout out of proportion to their population numbers.  Northern Ontario needs to make use of this influence while it still retains it. It is unlikely that 2041 will see the north with 10 percent of the seats in the legislature but only 4 percent of the population.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The State of the North

The State of the North conference hosted by the Northern Policy Institute was held in Timmins from September 27-28 with much of the discussion focusing on reversing the north's economic decline.   Charles Cirtwill, President of the Northern Policy Institute sent out the slides of his presentation with an invitation to share and today's post reproduces a few of those slides.  Figures 1-2 present some GDP estimates by sector for the Northwest and the Northeast of Ontario while Figures 3-5 present non-residential building permits for assorted northern Ontario districts.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Decline of Saving

Most of us are aware that Canadian households have reached record levels of indebtedness over the last few years.  Household debt in Canada is now over $2 trillion and household debt to disposable income ratios in Canada are now at 170 percent.  Less discussed is what has happened to savings.  While low interest rates have been a factor in Canadians being able to carry substantially larger debt burdens, they have also been a factor in reducing the interest income from saving and as a result have led to a drop in the number of savers.

The Bank of Canada rate dropped from 6 percent in 2000 to 0.75 percent in 2015.  Over the same period, the total number of savers in Canada as reported by Statistics Canada from data compiled from Income Tax returns (Table 1110036 - Canadian savers, by savers characteristics, annually) dropped from 4,808,930 to 3,356,840 – a decline of 30 percent.  Over the same period, the median annual interest income of Canadians fell from $400 to $230, a drop of 43 percent.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Why the North's Cities are Losing Population

Everyone is still pretty much digesting last week's census results and the news that many northern Ontario's cities actually lost population.  Of course, the immediate gut reaction to the population decline of what are supposed to be the regional magnets for growth will focus on a slow economy as well as cries that the provincial government needs to do something.  I think its important to think more carefully about what actually is happening given that northern Ontario as a whole actually saw a slight population increase.  Here is my take on what some of the factors may be.