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New Brunswick at the Dawn of a New Century

B - C

II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

While many demographic issues and trends have been considered in this discussion paper, the following appear to be the ones that are likely to have the most impact on public policy in New Brunswick.

 

A. New Brunswick's Slow Population Growth

New Brunswick experienced a surge in births in the 1947-1966 period, known as the "baby boom". This phenomenon also occurred in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. During this period, the fertility rate was at an all time high, at almost 4.0. However, a "baby bust" occurred in the period following the "baby boom" generation, in which the fertility rate witnessed a dramatic drop.

It is imperative for government to understand and assess the impact of our changing society in the context of our aging population and the demands and challenges this presents for the design and delivery of programs and services.
Notice of Motion establishing Select Commitee of the Legislature on Demographics, April 13, 1995


Conversely, New Brunswick, unlike many other Canadian provinces, did not experience an "echo boom" (children of baby boomers) in the early 1980's and 1990's. The result was that the birth rate in New Brunswick remained at an all time low, while several Canadian provinces were experiencing a surge in births.

New Brunswick's declining birth rate, coupled with its low fertility rate, is contributing to its slow population growth. The fertility rate in 1994 in New Brunswick was 1.5. This rate makes it difficult to increase, or even maintain population growth, given the replacement rate is 2.1.

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Furthermore, if this situation continues, New Brunswick will have to rely to a greater degree on interprovincial migration and immigration for its future growth. However, New Brunswick has not been a primary destination for immigrants coming to Canada. In fact, at the time of the 1991 census, New Brunswick's total immigrant population stood at 23,975, or 0.3% of the total immigrant population. Thus, immigration may not be an alternative for New Brunswick in addressing its slow population growth.

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It is projected that New Brunswick will experience a steady but small growth in population over the next 15 years. Population growth will likely continue in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. while Atlantic Canada's share of the total Canadian population continues to decline. We in Atlantic Canada, now have 8.6% of the population compared with 11.6% in 1951. New Brunswick's share has declined from 3.7% to 2.7% of the national total.

Maintaining a 1 percent annual growth in Canadian population under moderate fertility assumptions would require annual immigration of over 500,000 people by the 2030's. Currently, annual immigration is about 140,000 people. Thus, it is realistic to expect declines in Canada's total population in the next century. The portion of Canada's 65 and over population could more than double in the next half century.
Richard Belous, Demographic Currents


B. New Brunswick is an Aging Population

The change brought about by demographic transition affects not only the rate of population growth but transforms the population age structure. This demographic transition to an older population is well underway in New Brunswick.

An aging population is characterized by a declining proportion of young and an increasing proportion of elderly people. By the time baby boomers retire in New Brunswick, it is estimated that one in every five Canadians will be 65 years of age or more, compared to approximately one in ten today. Similarly, New Brunswick's population is likely to age as much in the final 20 years of the twentieth century, as it did in the previous 80 years. In 1994, the median age of the New Brunswick population was 34.2 years, up 6.1 years since 1981, and 10.3 years from just over two decades earlier.

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Perhaps the most important reason for population aging is the decline in both the birth rate and fertility rate. As mentioned above, a total fertility rate of 2.1 is necessary to maintain the provinceÆs current population level without immigration factored in. The fertility rate in New Brunswick in 1994 stood at 1.5.

 

C. The Distribution of Our Population

The population of New Brunswick is widely dispersed over its territory. There were 760,500 persons residing in New Brunswick as of October, 1995, representing a gross population density of 10.6 person per km2. Canada, with its population standing at 29,732,953 persons in October, 1995, had a gross population density of 3.2 person per km2. New Brunswick's sparsely populated province has seven major centers; Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Bathurst, Campbelton, Edmundston, and Miramichi. The remaining population is dispersed in villages, towns, and parishes.

The future might not belong to whoever has the largest market or is the best positioned in terms of process technology or production skills. More simply, the future will belong to whoever thinks long term.
Alfredo Bregni, McKinsy & Co.


The dispersion of New Brunswick's population over its territory impacts on the provision of services, such as health care, education, sewage, water, garbage disposal, policing, hydro, telephone, transportation, and numerous other municipal and provincial services.

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