New Brunswick is not too rural, it is not urban enough

There is a pervasive view that in order for New Brunswick to grow it has to empty  its rural population into its urban centres.  We are too rural and that is the problem we are told.

Once again many people are mistaken.  We are not too rural, we are not enough urban.

That is a huge distinction with significant public policy implications.

Across Canada, the rural population has actually been on the rise (for the most part) for many decades. In 1951, there were 5.4 million people living in ‘rural’ Canada according to Statistics Canada and by 2011 there are something like 6.3 million.  Very slow growth – but growth.

The problem in New Brunswick is not our need to empty rural New Brunswick – it’s that we haven’t been growing our urban centres.  That is where much of the policy focus needs to be be.

We need strong and growing urban centres and that will have spinoff impacts in the rural periphery.  For the small towns and rural areas outside of the urban areas, hopefully a strong natural resources sector and others that are suited to these areas can be exploited.

But I am quite shocked when I hear people talk about emptying rural and Northern NB as the solution to our problems.

If we followed the national trend, New Brunswick’s rural regions could grow slowly, it’s small urbans could do reasonably well (i.e. Bathurst and Edmundston) and its large urbans would grow strongly.


3 thoughts on “New Brunswick is not too rural, it is not urban enough

  1. David, you are so right. This focus on NB being too rural is like a business being focus on costs at the sacrifice of revenue, and we all know what’ll happen in that case. In NB we like to talk about our high tides, so let’s get the high tide of urban growth to float more rural prosperity. It IS all about the economy stupid.

  2. the problem with New Brunswick is that they choose to bump up the property taxes not realizing that places like Saint John have people moving out of the city. In places like Quispamsis and Rothesay, the taxes are much lower and it is a very small commute to the city to go to work.

    Drop the property taxes to a more reasonable level and you will see folks moving back. I compared a similar property in Quispamsis and it would have been worth my while to live there and eat the commute cost. Go figure.

    NB govt doesn’t care. They just don’t get it. Go figure…

  3. “In places like Quispamsis and Rothesay, the taxes are much lower”

    I wonder if a more likely scenario is that small municipalities and LSDs outside of urban centres will see their property taxes jump as the province turns over more of the service costs to them. I can’t see property taxes anywhere in NB dropping; perhaps they will remain stable if the province gives munis more taxing powers.

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