Census 2016: New Brunswick 1st province since 2006 to see population decline

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New Brunswick 1st province since 2006 to see population decline
WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick is the first province since 2006 to report a drop in population — shrinking by 0.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016 – Feb 8, 2017

New Brunswick is the first province since 2006 to report a drop in population — shrinking by 0.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to the first batch of census results released Wednesday.

READ MORE: Census 2016: Campbellton, N.B. sees one of Canada’s sharpest population drops

The small, urban town of Campbellton, which sits on the N.B.-Quebec border, saw one of the sharpest declines in Canada, with population down 9.3 per cent.

Economics professor Alan Chan said there is a direct correlation between economic development and population growth or decline, and that these numbers could possibly be hinting at an issue for New Brunswick.

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“If you have a straining population, then maybe there’s a shortage of workers, and businesses … cannot find the people that can work here, and as a result they may leave the province as a whole,” Chan said.

“I would say economic development and population growth are together. Which costs which? We don’t know, but they go together.”

The metropolitan area of Saint John showed a population decrease of 2.2 per cent, which is well below Canada’s overall growth rate of five per cent. That decrease ranks the port city as No. 31 out of 35 of the country’s census metropolitan areas.

The Saint John metropolitan area, which includes the city and surrounding communities, shrank from 129,057 to 126,202 since the last census in 2011.

WATCH: While the rest of the provinces show an increase in their population, New Brunswick is the only province to show a delcline. Global’s Paul Cormier explains. 
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City-wise, Saint John went from 70,063 residents to 67,575.

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“The results have confirmed a troubling trend for Saint John and really the overall population of New Brunswick,” Saint John Mayor Don Darling said in a phone interview.

“It’s not acceptable, sustainable, and sort of status quo isn’t working for us. We can’t continue to have a decline, because a declining population makes it very, very difficult for us to sustain ourselves.”

Darling has been mayor of the port city since May, and said since then he and his council have been extremely focused on developing a plan, which he hopes to launch in March, with real strategy and tactics for spurring growth in the city.

WATCH: The 2016 census findings are out, and Canada is once again the fastest growing country in the G7.
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He said he and his councillors will take some time to critically look at the numbers and try to determine and understand why his city is ranking so low.

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“If people are leaving the area because they’re going elsewhere for jobs, out of the province for jobs, we need to understand that,” Darling said.

He said the city will need help from the provincial and federal governments, as well as the residents of Saint John, to help their population rebound.

Communities in the Saint John area include Campbellton, Sussex, Rothesay and Miramichi.

Moncton and Fredericton growing, but slowly

While New Brunswick’s capital city of Fredericton grew, its 3.6 per cent rate of growth still fell below the national rate over the past five years.

READ MORE: Fredericton welcomed more Syrians per capita than other Canadian cities: multicultural association

The population of Fredericton increased by about 2,000 people, growing from 56,334 residents to 58,220.

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Communities in the Fredericton region, which include Chipman, Gagetown and McAdam, consistently reported negative growth rates, save for Oromocto which increased slightly.

New Brunswick has a steadily aging population and low birth rate, which is contributing to the lag in population growth.

READ MORE: Aging population contributing to more cases of Alzheimer’s, Dementia

Moncton’s population saw a greater growth rate in its population at four per cent over the past five years, though that number still sits below the national average of five per cent.

Like Saint John, Moncton’s number is calculated using a census metropolitan area, which takes into account some communities surrounding the city itself.

The census metropolitan area saw an increase from 139,287 to 144,810 since the last census in 2011. In that same timeframe, the population of the actual city of Moncton grew from 69,074 to 71,889 residents.

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That puts Moncton slightly ahead of Saint John with regards to the rest of Canada’s census metropolitan areas, ranking 29 out of 35.

Chan said it’s too early for him to speculate on whether the decrease in population would have an effect on equalization payments with other provinces.

“If we have a larger population, then we have a larger tax base, so therefore the extra help in fiscal situations in the province of New Brunswick,” Chan said, adding that with a shrinking population, the province runs a risk of having issues getting federal money.

Chan says a focus on fostering local businesses and attracting people from outside the province will help build up the population, spurring economic growth and hopefully keeping New Brunswickers in the province.

Canada’s total population on census day was 35,151,728 people.

— With files from The Canadian Press. 

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