‘Something is changing’: Saint John’s population on the upswing

Saint John reports population increase of more than 1,200 since 2016
WATCH: After showing a population decrease in the 2016 Census, Saint John's population appears to be on the rebound. As Andrew Cromwell reports, the city's Population Growth manager says β€œthe tide is turning.”

Efforts by the city of Saint John to increase its population appear to be bearing fruit.

“Something is changing, the tide is turning,” said David Dobbelsteyn, the city’s population growth manager

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A report to Saint John Common Council on Monday suggests Saint John’s population is once again on the upswing and outlying communities are growing as well.

Recent data from Statistics Canada indicate 68,808 people call the port city home in 2018, an increase of more than 400 since 2017.

“This comes from an all-time high of 89,000 in the late 70s to 67,000 in 2016,” explained Dobbelsteyn.

“We’ve had sort of 40-years of decline and now we’re trying to take a concerted effort as a community to turn that around.”

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READ MORE: Three levels of government to contribute to Saint John population growth program

The greater Saint John area also showed an increase in population, gaining more than 500 since 2017.

The forecast is even brighter on the horizon.

Immigration is a big part of the turnaround and the city’s efforts to keep newcomers here.

Monday’s report indicated 91 per cent of the population growth was immigration based.

“With thousands of immigrants coming in and with all the jobs that are now available with the baby boomers retiring we do have jobs available for newcomers and so we’re trying to match immigrants with jobs,” said Dobbelsteyn.

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The Saint John Newcomers Centre says the city’s Population Growth Framework launched last year was focused on welcoming newcomers.

“It is also centered to ensure that newcomers are coming into the community in a way that has never happened before,” said Mohamed Bagha, managing director of the centre.

Bagha says there’s a desire for more cultural events to bring people together, something that Dobbelsteyn agrees with, saying that residents can help further by not just welcoming but befriending those who are new to the community.

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“We may not feel the need to go out and meet people but that’s a really important part for these new families that are moving here to make those social connections,” said Dobbelsteyn.

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It is also hoped the federal and provincial governments will increase the number of immigrants allowed to move to the area.