Don’t let Covid-19 derail New Brunswick’s progress

Keep your eye on the ball.

Keep your stick on the ice.

Keep your head up.

We can’t led Covid-19 derail New Brunswick’s progress.

The new population figures from Statistics Canada are out.  These are provincial figures and are based on the population estimate in July 2020.  New Brunswick witnessed modest population growth even with the onset of Covid-19 but as shown in the chart only two other provinces had a slower growth rate.  Between 2019 and 2020, the population increased by only 0.6%. Last year, the population of New Brunswick increased by 0.9%.  We need to get up to 1.5-2.0% per year.

Because, Covid or no-Covid, annual deaths are increasing year over year.  Retirements are increasing year over year.  Demography is destiny.  If we don’t rebalance ours, the economy and sustainability of public finances will be at risk.  All we have to do is mimic PEI.  That can’t be too hard (?).  The median age on PEI dropped again this year – that province is getting ‘younger’ every year.  

New Brunswick was on track for a record year in terms of attracting immigrants.  Unfortunately Covid-19 hit and we actually saw a decline in 2020 but not by a large amount (the number of temporary residents dropped by 1,000 however, from 1,600 to 600).  We need to get back to the 7,500 and then the 10,000 and then higher in the next few years. 

And we need to be laser focused on attracting folks who have an economic reason to be here – to study, to work, to start a business, to buy a business, etc.  The number of interprovincial out-migrants had been decreasing in the past few years even as the number of in-migrants were rising. But there was a big jump in 2019-2020 – out-migrants increased by 16% over the previous year.  We still had a positive migration rate – more in than out – but really need to focus on folks that want to make a go of it here. 

It will be very frustrating if the modest bending of the curve upward we have seen in the past few years – goes back into negative territory because of Covid-19.  There is no reason for this.  

Let’s keep our eye on the prize.