Cornwall's not getting any younger, and that's a problem

Many Ontario communities are facing aging populations, but the shifting demographic is being acutely felt in Cornwall, where the population has also been holding steady for many years.

Now, the mayor wants the community to come together to try to come up with solutions.

"We've been at about 47,000 to 48,000 people for decades now. And so the growth is extremely slow, and from a financial perspective that is a risk when we look at our planning over the long term," Bernadette Clement told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning.

According to a report presented to city council last week, the population is not expected to reach 50,000 until 2036.

And it's older than the provincial average. According to Statistics Canada data from the 2016 census, the median age in Cornwall is 46, while across the province it's 41.

Ed Hunter/CBC

'Not sustainable'

It's bad enough that some local employers are bussing in staff from Montreal because they can't find enough workers in Cornwall.

"There's a situation there that is not sustainable," Clement said.

"Seniors need services. We need young people to be able to provide those services. There's that younger demographic, the young families, that we need to focus on."

The positives of living in Cornwall, Clement said, include low housing costs (a house can be bought for about $168,000 on average) and very little traffic (it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to drive across the city).

What might be keeping people away, she said, is a lack of rental housing, young people leaving the city for post-secondary education and not coming back, and the idea that Cornwall's population might not be diverse.

"There might be a perception out there that Cornwall doesn't have a multicultural demographic. Well, we do. It's changing, every year we see that change, and we'd like to be able to say to immigrants, this is a good place to come because it's affordable and it's easier sometimes to raise a family in a smaller city," Clement said.