Comin’ back up the road? Ontario moves east.

The annual population estimates for Canada and the provinces were published this week by Statistics Canada and there is good and not so good news in there for New Brunswick. The numbers are as at July 1st so they are not for the calendar year which can be confusing.

The overall population increased by 6,021 or 0.8%, slightly less than last year (6,076) and the year before (6,827) but still quite good given the pandemic. The population growth rate was 0.8%, same as last year but less than the 1% growth rate in 2019, pre-pandemic.

Once again we significantly under-performed our peers in the Maritimes. Nova Scotia’s population increased by 1% and PEI led the country again with a 1.9% growth rate. We were faster growing than the country overall for the first time in forever (shout out to Frozen).

The big concern was the 47% drop in immigration compared to the pre-pandemic 2019. This was tied for the largest percentage point drop with PEI and SK among the 10 provinces. Ontario’s immigrant numbers declined by only 22% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2019. That worries me for reasons covered in a previous post.

The good news was the large influx from other provinces, mostly Ontario. New Brunswick attracted 3,900 (net) from the rest of Canada. Adjusted for population size, however, that dwarfed Nova Scotia – a province that attracted twice as many as New Brunswick adjusted for population size. Even PEI had a higher interprovincial migration rate. A good question would be why? What do the Bluenosers have over the Herringchokers? Was it access to housing? Was it Halifax? Data in the near future should shed light on this. Maybe we need a new nickname.

Where are these interprovincial migrants coming from? Well, Ontario, of course. over 6,100 of them in 2020 to 2021. On a net basis we attracted 3,388 more than we lost to Ontario. However, adjusted for population size we lost more population to Nova Scotia in 2020-2021.

They don’t want our bees but apparently they take people (there is a very prominent sign at the border outlawing illegal immigrant bees, although I’m not sure how they enforce the border).

All in all the past year + 4 months has been a very interesting time economically and demographically across Canada.

If Ontario continues to lose folks to interprovincial migration you can be sure they will make it up through immigration muscling out the smaller provinces. My prediction is this will settle down after the pandemic subsides but when that will be is still in the air – we have added ‘waves’ to the pandemic lexicon.

New Brunswick needs to focus on getting its immigrant numbers back on track in addition to encouraging folks from elsewhere in Canada to move here. By my estimates I think we need to get up to 1.5% per year population growth – skewed towards younger people – to ensure we meet workforce demand into the future.