Population churn: It’s the net number that counts

Political campaigns are filled with snappy one liners meant to stick in the voters mind.  In New Brunswick there tends to be a lot in the spirit of “keep our young people home”.  That tugs at the heart strings – “our best and brightest young people have to move out west because of our politicians”.  It makes you want to take a cudgel to your polling station.

But it is worth reminding you that we are really interested in the ‘net’ number.  Young people will leave NB in the thousands each year.  They always have.  They always will.  They go away to school (I just dropped my eldest daughter off at York U this past weekend, sigh).  They want to see the world.  And, yes, some will go to make the big bucks.

We need New Brunswick to be a place that is creating meaningful career opportunities for young people.  That gives young NBers choices (stay or go) but ultimately where the population comes from to fill those jobs will be a combination of locals, interprovincial migrants and immigrants.

Look at the Toronto CMA.  Over the past decade it has lost more people on a net basis through intraprovincial and interprovincial migration than it has attracted.  More people moved to Moncton from Toronto than vice versa since 2006.  But Toronto more than makes up with massive immigration.  In an average year, Toronto attracts more immigrants in one year than New Brunswick attracts in 75 years.  BTW, a chunk of those immigrants to Toronto also end up migrating out and some of them end up in New Brunswick – which removes Jason Kenny from the equation altogether (hint, hint).

Bottom line?  For many young NBers the best thing for them to do is leave (and hopefully many will come back).    Living in another city or country opens their eyes to possibilities. It makes them more tolerant.  It strengthens ambition.  Many – if not most – of the interesting people I meet in this province either moved here from away or were born here but moved away and then came back.

It doesn’t make much for a campaign zinger but I propose the politicians say “We need to focus on the net migration pattern” or how about “let my people go and bring back skills and worldliness we really need”.