Northern Ontario is leaking workers and people. If nothing is done, that could easily turn into a flood, the Northern Policy Institute warns.

In a release, the Northern Policy Institute said the North will be short 75,000 workers and 150,000 people by the year 2041, even after allowing for the expected growth in the region’s Indigenous population.

The Northern Policy Institute also suggests, in a report examining the separate regions across the North, the lack of economic diversity in Timmins and the communities of Cochrane District has limited its potential to withstand economic setbacks.

“Lacking the degree of diversity one observes in the larger city-regions has left the Timmins city-region particularly vulnerable to external economic forces,” according to the report entitled Economic Zones of Northern Ontario.

“For example, the forestry sector was decimated by a combination of high U.S. tariffs, the slump in the U.S. housing market, and limited access to Crown land for a number of small producers.

“Despite, its vulnerability to global commodity price volatility, the Timmins city-region has maintained its core strength in geology and geosciences.”

However, to make up for out-migration, the institute suggests Northern Ontario would have to attract, on average, some 6,000 people a year, starting next year and every year for the next 25 years.

“This will require real resources, significant effort and serious commitment,” the institute said.

It will also require an evidence-based plan. To that end, the Northern Policy Institute has launched a new project, Northern Attraction, to collect the evidence, engage with experts, and develop that action plan to share with key decision-makers, community partners and the broader public.

As part of the Northern Attraction project, Curry Consulting of North Bay has been commissioned to recommend needed changes to current policies and programs related to migration.

“These could include economic incentives for newcomers, local control of immigration programs based on local needs, methods of targeted recruitment and the capacity of settlement services to provide the necessary supports to ensure newcomers feel welcomed in communities,” the Northern Policy Institute said. “Newcomers include both immigrants (those from outside of Canada) and secondary migrants (Canadians or new arrivals moving to Northern Ontario from their current community).”

According to available data, about 1,800 more people left Northeastern Ontario than came to the region in 2014-15. That same year, about 700 more people left Northwestern Ontario than settled there.

In Northeastern Ontario, only Sudbury gained population, according to the last census. However, the new census data also showed the population of the metropolitan area of Grand Sudbury fell below the national growth rate over the last five years.