The viability of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is diminishing, according to an independent study released to the region’s mayor and council. With a declining population and financial hardships noted in the report, CBRM’s mayor is seeking help from the province.

According to a report released by the accounting firm Grant Thorton, CBRM will not be viable if residents continue to leave the island – noting it’s losing population at the rate of one per cent a year.

Some residents believe the common sight of empty storefronts is a sign of the CBRM’s decline.

“I could see some major changes for shopping areas,” says resident Rose McEachern. “We were downtown, and it's unfortunate that there's not a good supply of shopping downtown – the North Sydney Mall, there's very little left in that mall.”

Mayor Cecil Clarke says the city is struggling and says, if financial support from the province isn't secured quickly, the municipality cannot continue to operate.

“We have crumbling infrastructure,” says Clarke. “The infrastructure deficit we are experiencing, aside from operating issues, is mounting; the requirements for wastewater are hundreds of millions of dollars – that's just not attainable right now."

Despite the region’s current struggles, downtown development director of Sydney Downtown, Michelle Wilson, feels there is renewed excitement for CBRM’s downtown core – noting new businesses are looking to open in the area.

“I tend to disagree with the fact that we're dying,” says Wilson. “I feel like there's been a lot of positive momentum happening lately – so I would disagree with that.

The report lists 20 recommendations, which include cutting costs, increasing revenue, attracting more businesses and residents to the area. Clarke is optimistic the province will take the recommendations seriously.

“Well, the province put money that was originally designated for economic development into this,” says Clarke. “So when you're talking about over $220,000 of provincial taxpayer money, I would hope that we are going to do something with this. This is not a report to collect dust; it's a report a warning sign – the bell has been rung, now we have to answer the call.”

Meanwhile, CBRM council voted unanimously to accept the report, which will be brought to Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore