New Brunswick is Canada's only province with a shrinking population

New Brunswick's population has dropped 0.5 per cent since 2011 — to 747,101. It's the only province that experienced a decline over a five-year period, according to the 2016 census released today.

Census confirms Moncton as province's largest city, passing Saint John

Statistics Canada on Wednesday released its first batch of data from the 2016 census, which showed New Brunswick was the only province to experience a drop in population. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that experienced a decline in population over a five-year period, according to the 2016 census.

The province's population dropped last year to 747,101 from 751,171 in 2011 — a decrease of 0.5 per cent, according to the latest census released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.

Overall, Canada's population rose to 35,151,728 in 2016, up from 33.5 million recorded in 2011.

Heading into the latest census, New Brunswick had experienced a growth rate of 2.9 per cent from 2006 to 2011.

Donald Arseneault, the minister responsible for population growth, said the New Brunswick government wants to turn around the declining numbers.

He said the government is trying to bring New Brunswickers back to the province and to lure new Canadians to the province, as well as create a stronger workforce. 

Liberal cabinet minister Donald Arseneault said it will take two to three years for the province to feel the complete benefits of the "Tuition Access Bursary" (CBC)
"As a government, we continue to focus on growing our population," he said. "There is no doubt that sometimes there are bumps along the road. That is why we've focused on growing the economy."

Arseneault represents a northern New Brunswick riding, which covers some of the areas that saw the largest drops in population.

Those communities, he said, want the provincial government to invest more in health and education services as a way to keep people from leaving.

The census also revealed the lowest population growth rate in the country from 2011 to 2016 was in the Atlantic provinces:

  • Prince Edward Island had a 1.9 per cent increase.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador with a one per cent increase.
  • Nova Scotia with a 0.2 per cent increase. 

The picture was much different in Western Canada, with the quickest rate of growth recorded in Alberta, at 11.6 per cent, followed by Saskatchewan at 6.3 per cent and Manitoba at 5.8 per cent.

N.B. has new largest city

Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the census results, which showed Saint John having lost its title of New Brunswick's largest city, are disappointing. (CBC)
Moncton has overtaken Saint John as the largest city in New Brunswick, according to the latest census.

Moncton's population rose by 4.1 per cent in 2016 to 71,889, up from 69,074 in 2011. Saint John's population decreased by 3.6 per cent — from 70,063 to 67,575.

Saint John Mayor Don Darling called the census results both unacceptable and disappointing. 

"It's not sustainable for us," he said. "Status quo isn't going to work when it comes to population growth and jobs and getting our economy going."

Population decrease

Robert Jones looks into Wednesday's census release and New Brunswick's declining population, especially in northern communities. 2:22
Other cities in the province that experienced population drops include:
  • Campbellton: by 6.8 per cent, from 7,385 to 6,883. 
  • Miramichi: by 1.5 per cent, from 17,811 to 17,537.
  • Bathurst: by 3.1 per cent, from 12,275 to 11,897.

Other areas of the province saw population growth, including the capital of Fredericton, where it rose 3.6 per cent, from 56,224 to 58,220. 

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien said he is pleased with the city's population growth.

"It is very manageable in terms of providing new infrastructure and services to the new residences and businesses," said O'Brien. "It is also very positive given the state of the provincial economy."

"This is further evidence that the larger cities are the economic engines for the province, and why the province must have a robust urban strategy," he said.

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard said it was great news to see that his northwestern city saw its population grow, even as others in the region shrank. (CBC)
Edmundston's population also increased, by 3.4 per cent, from 16,032 to 16,580.

That data was welcomed by Mayor Cyrille Simard.

"It's great news for Edmundston obviously, especially when you compare with other cities in the province, and moreover in the northern part of New Brunswick," he said in an email to CBC News.

Simard said that with more families moving to the northern city, it's seeing a population boom. 

He said the economy is also improving, noting growth in the forestry sector as well as commercial investments. 

"Hopefully it all adds up to better conditions for families," he said. "That's encouraging.' 

The population also grew in:

  • The Lincoln subdivision just outside Fredericton, by 11.1 per cent, from 6,458 to 7,177. 
  • Shediac, a town in Westmorland County, by 10.1 per cent, from 6,053 to 6,664.
  • Dieppe, just outside Moncton, by 8.9 per cent, from 23,310 to 25,384.

With files from Daniel McHardie

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