MONCTON – New numbers from Statistics Canada show that for the first time last year, New Brunswick recorded more deaths than births.
While the numbers are still considered estimates, they show that in 2013-14, 6,835 people died in the province, while 6,826 babies were born.
Birth rates have been dropping for years, and it was expected New Brunswick would soon reach this milestone, of sorts.
But this finding has serious implications for the economy.
Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, an economics professor at the University of Moncton, said outmigration, along with the birth and death rates, affect the province’s economy in three key ways: fewer people consuming, less production and fewer people contributing taxes.
“Right now the provincial government says that for balancing the budget, everything is on the table,” he said. “I think that when we’re dealing with economic development, everything should be on the table, including things like shale gas.”
He pointed to Saskatchewan’s natural gas development as an example, adding that many federal programs give money on a per capita basis.
He said smaller populations mean New Brunswick will get a smaller piece of the pie and government needs to do what it can to grow the economy and create more jobs.
“That means people that are leaving will stay, that means the people that left will be coming back, that means that we’re going to be able to attract people from outside,” he said.
Nova Scotia is having the same problems. Deaths surpassed births in that province two years ago, with 8,778 deaths and 8,675 births in 2012-13 and 8,955 deaths and 8,572 births in 2013-14.
This was one of the biggest developments that prompted Nova Scotia’s Ivany report last year. The report made a number of recommendations to reverse the population trend, including tripling the rate of international immigration.
Boosting immigration is a strategy New Brunswick can follow.
Rachel Dimanche moved to Moncton eight months ago. She is originally from Haiti, and lived nine years in Montreal.
“We came and we really liked the city,” Dimanche said. “People are extremely nice here compared to Montreal, you know, the busy city feel.”
She bucks the trend among immigrants who often choose to leave New Brunswick for cities with a more established immigrant population. New Brunswick needs to attract more people like her.
Dimanche found a job a month after moving to Moncton with the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area and plans to make Moncton her home.
Justin Ryan, Public Education and Communications Coordinator at the same organization said encouraging new immigrants and retaining them should be our priority.
“We’ve got a base of 750,000 people and shrinking. There’s not a lot of capital to invest in new business and invest in new growth,” he said. “Over half of the people that come here under the province’s program, come here as entrepreneurs, to invest, to start new businesses and to drive employment,” he said.