The semantic dance: rural vs. urban

It’s not often Kurt Peacock and I disagree on much of anything but my column in the TJ today talks about the growth of the rural population in New Brunswick and his talks about the inevitable growth of urban New Brunswick.


As always, statistics are about reference points and fine grain definition.  My reference point is 1971 (before Kurt was born) when the rural population in New Brunswick was 43 percent of the provincial population compared to 47 percent now (2011).  That is a statistical fact – as defined by Stats Can.

Kurt is talking about the CMAs in Moncton and Saint John and the CA in Fredericton and looking at the most recent Census period (s).

So, we are both right.

Where we converge in views is on the migration of the rural population closer to the urban centres over the decades (you may hear the term suburban but that could be urban or rural).

To make things worse, Stats Can is now moved away from the term ‘urban’ and is using the term ‘population centre’:

• small population centres, with a population of between 1,000 and 29,999

• medium population centres, with a population of between 30,000 and 99,999

• large urban population centres, consisting of a population of 100,000 and over.


The bottom line, of course, is the implication of these trends.   I think the ties between urban and rural will continue to strengthen – I think the immigrant population will likely to move into urban centres (unless we specifically target folks to live in rural areas like we did back in the 1970s).    Regional governance will smooth things out somewhat in terms of the cost and provision of services such as snow removal, garbage, etc.  The fight between the urbanites and rural purists will continue unabated over my lifetime.

The real challenge is Northern NB (not rural NB).

That area is clearly losing population and in danger of becoming a vast retirement community – or maybe not even that as there is a growing migration of retired northerners to places like Dieppe and Moncton to be closer to their grandkids.  If some people could sell their houses at a good price, they would move as well.

I think there are a couple of reasons why we shouldn’t give up on Northern NB yet and I think there are some good economic alternatives to throwing money from the top of the highest building in Bathurst and hoping the right people will catch it.

But you will have to read about it in an upcoming TJ column (hint: I have talked about these ideas here before).





2 thoughts on “The semantic dance: rural vs. urban

  1. I’m looking forward to reading your article in the TJ. As a recent immigrant to the north, positive proactive issues about sustainability and growth will hopefully bring others to the area. Keep up the good work!

  2. Regardless of the changing Stats Can definitions, I think we need to re-define rural when we talk about development in New Brunswick. We can easily consign ourselves to the ‘hopeless case’ category if we accept there are more rural NB’ers than urban dwellers, and vitually everywhere in the world growth is taking place in urban communities. I tend to think of many, if not most, ‘rural-dwelling NB’ers as a different strain of suburbanites, living with in say, a half hour’s drive of a significant service centre. By the way this happens to include most of our First Nations population.

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