Halifax regional council unanimously voted for a five-year plan that aims to grow the municipality by 52,000 people and boost the GDP by billions of dollars.
The GDP would jump from $19 billion to $22.5 billion.
“I think ‘ambitious’ is a fair word, yes. I think we’ve even used the phrase, ‘aggressively optimistic’,” said Ian Munro, chief economist of the Halifax Partnership. “They’re credible numbers to reach, although it’s going to require a lot of hard work.”
Halifax’s Economic Growth Plan 2016-21 (PDF) focuses on four goals: promoting and maximizing growth, making Halifax a better place to live and work, aligning economic development, and attracting and retaining talent.
“Whether the plan is feasible very short-term, I don’t know. I think, long-term, it’s good to have these aspirational targets,” said Pedro Antunes, deputy chief economist for the Conference Board of Canada.
Antunes said that finding ways to keep immigrants and young people, including those who come to Nova Scotia for school, is key.
“It’s very hard to move an aging demography, it’s hard to move anything to do with the baby boom cohort. So what we need to look at to get strong population growth is immigration,” he added.
“The plan is good. It’s good to have a plan,” said Fred Bergman, senior policy analyst for Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.
He said that the proposed GDP growth is possible, particularly because of Irving Shipbuilding’s more than $25-billion contract to build navy ships in Halifax.
However, Bergman said the way the municipality’s economic development policies will stay in sync with those from other levels of government could be better detailed.
“I think, sometimes, it helps to elaborate what those plans and or policies are as part of your economic strategy,” he said.
The longer-term goal for Halifax is to reach a population of 550,000 and have a GDP of $30 billion by 2031.