Port Hardy, BC
Demographic Factsheet:

Stats:Population (2011): 4,008
Population change since 2006: 4.9%
Pop density/km2: 103.5
Land area: 38.73 km2
Average family income (all census families): NA
Visible minority: 5.4
Employment rate: 64.9
Participation rate: 73.7
Housing starts (2011): NA
Average rental rate: NA
Homeownership rate: NA
Persons in private households: 3,955
Median age of the population: 40.4
Percent of the population aged 15 and over: 81.4
Port Hardy, named for Vice Adm. Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, is a coastal community on the Pacific Ocean in the pristine wilderness of Hardy Bay on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, and is the largest community in the Regional District of Mt. Waddington. Although Hardy Bay had begun attracting settlers as of the late 1800s, the current location of Port Hardy was only settled at the beginning of the 20th century when a post office and store opened by Alec and Sarah Lyon began operations. The area soon after gained recognition and, in 1912, owing to the Hardy Bay Land Co., an important land deal was agreed on. In the succeeding two years, 12 families made their homes in the town; a school, a sawmill, a church and a hotel were concordantly constructed to support the small, growing population.
In spite of limited access to the town— 236 km by road from the nearest small city, Campbell River— nearby military bases drew an army of families to Port Hardy, especially during the period separating World War I and World War II. It is estimated that following the culmination of most of the military operations in the area after the end of World War II, roughly 50 families continued to reside in Port Hardy. A period of relative development ensued. The fishing and logging industries gained prominence as leading employers into the latter half of the century. Port Hardy profited significantly during the post-war period, in a similar fashion to many communities on Canada’s Pacific coast. Its population grew from approximately 1,000 to 5,000 people in the period between 1950 and 1965. The town was officially incorporated on April 5, 1966.
Port Hardy has access to many valuable raw resources on land and from the ocean. The Island Copper Mine opened in 1969, grew to become Canada’s third largest, and allowed to the local economy to temporarily prosper until its closure in 1995. Job availability deceased and the regional population began to slowly contract from its pinnacle of 15,000 people in 1986, when “the average annual income was $3,000 above the provincial mean”. During ‘the copper mining years’ the community grew remarkably, and a quantity of amenities and services presented themselves, many of which have remained. Access to the isolated town was made practicable in 1979 when, following repeated political promises to construct the ‘island highway’, a logging road connecting Port Hardy to Campbell River was finally paved.
The community confronted acute economic repercussions as a result of the copper mine closure. Only a few large employers remained and annual incomes fell to their current $1,000 below the provincial average, leaving a difficult environment for surviving businesses. Port Hardy faced a population decline of about one-third from the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s, dropping to about 3,822 inhabitants. The population peaked at roughly 5,400 in the mid 1960s. In 2011, Port Hardy signed a Communities First Agreement with the Province of British Columbia's Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. Consequentially, Port Hardy began collaborating directly with the province on local priorities. The agreement provides, among many points, “a primary contact to meet with community representatives, information and resources, and identifies available funding sources for achieving various development goals”, including but not limited to “downtown revitalization, investment attraction, business expansion and retention [and] partnership”.
Despite a continued reliance on natural resources, with fishing, logging and mining having not only a historical importance but a future potential, the district is gradually diversifying its economy, with a focus, to an increasing extent, on tourism, the ‘green economy’, and partnerships with nearby First Nations communities. The number of residents in Port Hardy and area seems to have stabilized as new alternative industries, such as aquaculture and biomass, and restructuring in the forest sector and conservation efforts in fisheries have added jobs and potential for new growth. Many firms, according to Young, see significant opportunities in this restructuring, citing some as being “very optimistic” about the future. Aquaculture, for instance, “a significant employer of local people in the last decade” currently creates the most new jobs in Port Hardy. Senior government is reportedly also analyzing the possibility of oil and gas offshore exploration. However the benefits of such activity are still unknown.
Perhaps more importantly, the town increasingly serves as the “gateway to the fast-growing Central Coast”, owing to its developed and diversified transportation system. Port Hardy is at the crossroads for marine and air transportation, a significant BC Ferries terminus, and a stop along the Cape Scott and North Coast Trails. Concordantly, in recent years, tourism has flourished, including conventional, eco-based, adventure and cultural tourism.

Dr. Leith Deacon PhD