I probably deal with Statistics Canada as much as just about anyone.  I purchase CANSIM data on a weekly basis and I have The Daily as one of my Internet home pages.  It would be nice if Statistics Canada economists and spokespersons had even a basic understanding of economic development.  Consider it a kind of sensitivity training for economists. 

The reason I think this is necessary is that of the hundreds of quotes coming from Stats Can economists about ‘demographic’ challenges, I don’t think I have ever heard one say something as simple as “the economy needs to create more jobs in order to address the demographic challenges”. 

And journalists go to them reflexively because they are considered to be credible.  Consider this story on the CBC website.  The story is about the population decline in Saint John.

According to the latest census, Fredericton and Moncton grew by more than five per cent between 2001 and 2006. But Saint John’s population fell by 0.2 per cent. Marc Melanson, a regional adviser with Statistics Canada, said although the drop in population might seem insignificant, it’s worth paying attention to. “Of the 33 [census metropolitan areas in the country], Saint John is one of only two that lost population,” Melanson said. Saguenay, Que., was the other, dropping by 2.1 per cent. According to the census, women in Saint John are having on average 1.45 children. But for a population to replace itself, he says that number needs to increase to 2.1 children per woman. Melanson said immigration is the best way for Saint John to reverse the trend. “We’re typically Canadian born, white people, speak English. I mean that’s what Saint John looks like,” he said.

Now, most will say I am being petty but this is not isolated.  Why wouldn’t Melanson at least make a simple link between the economic problems in Saint John over the past 10-15 years and population decline?  Moving to the immigration card is standard fare but way to simplistic. 

If Saint John’s energy hub takes hold, if good paying jobs are increasing – people will move to Saint John. Sure, they will need to promote the area and be focused on attracting immigrants but the jobs must be there or coming first.

Statistics Canada economists should know this more than anyone.  In the future, it would be nice to hear or read a Stats Can economist saying something like this:

“It is a common misconception to blame population decline in places like Saint John on women not having children or other demographic factors.  However, based on the experience in fast growing cities across Canada, population decline is much more correlated with economic challenges than fertility rates.  The evidence is clear in hundreds of communities across North America.  Cities that have dynamic and growing employment opportunties are attracting workers and countering the fertility drop.  These workers are coming from both migration and immigration.”

“I, as a celebrated Statistics Canada economist, would suggest that Saint John focus its energies on fostering high quality employment opportunities and based on the experience elsewhere, I think the demographic challenges will be far easier to address.”  “Saint John will still need to work on people attraction but it will have the necessary economic foundation to attract them.”


Don’t hold your breath.  I have never saw this.

5 thoughts on “

  1. “We’re typically Canadian born, white people, speak English. I mean that’s what Saint John looks like,” he said.

    I could EXPAND on that but lets just say, the best have been forced west, now lets bring in some Haitian french.

  2. The real question is “what is the St. John population NOW”. That’s something we don’t know. It has easily been since 2001 that St. John was bragging about how wonderful everything was. Some of the hardest hit rural areas though are the french ones up north, so it makes sense they would go to Moncton or Fredericton rather than St. John, but again, that’s something we don’t know.

    One of the biggest exodus’ from St. John I suspect would be right after the shipyard closed. Those were decent jobs but at the time there were good blue collar jobs in Alberta.

    As for the economist, he’s just stating what he’s seen at other places-need people, get immigrants. There is that centrist bias there-got a problem, do like Ontario (or Alberta). NB’s population would grow if they simply ‘brought ex pats home’, but he doesn’t even say that. He makes a ‘moral statement’ in an issue that doesn’t necessarily need one-that’s BAD economics. Heck, its possible that St. Johners left and simply went to Moncton or Fredericton-hence THEIR growth.

    He is correct that St. John ‘looks like that’, but its still a racist view that IF a city doesn’t ‘look’ multi-ethnic then there is something ‘wrong’ with it.

  3. One site says population 122,389 a loss of 600 people 2001 to 2006.

    Stats Canada says 126.4 in 2007, same as 2003.

    Saint John (N.B.) 126.4 126.6 126.4 126.1 126.4
    2003 to 2007

    And in fact Saint John answers over half as other than English Irish.

    You will get better Stats on everything, once you start hiring for qualifications not language, or is that racist?

  4. ““I, as a celebrated Statistics Canada economist, would suggest that…”
    David, you will never hear that kind of statement from StatCan because that is not the agency’s mandate. StatCan’s products are intended to be purely descriptive and it’s up to the users of the data to make opinions based on them. Besides, statistics is a backward-looking discipline that is often used to make educated guesses about what the future will be like.

  5. I think that first sentence was a joke, but like I said, they DO make a ‘moral’ or ‘political’ recommendation that isn’t based on economics. St. Johners returning home aren’t really ‘immigrants’, but that solves the declining population problem, as does heavily funding family initiatives. This was done in France and saw even rural areas begin an increase in population. Immigration is only ONE option, and it’s a political decision to exclude mentioning other options that are just as viable.
    Saint John got a heavy influx of immigration when construction of the LNG terminal began. Irving essentially built a shanty town for spanish construction workers on the project. I was just conjecturing about french people moving to Fredericton and Moncton, thats that old issue that we don’t have data for.

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