An economics professor at the University of New Brunswick says he thinks the province is in for some good news today when 2016 census data on population and dwelling counts is released.
Specifically, Constantine Passaris said he thinks these results will show an increase in New Brunswick's population due in large part to immigration — particularly of Syrian refugees — during the early part of the census period.
This, he said, is because the province's fertility rate is still low and, until New Brunswick can increase its population naturally, "we will have to rely on immigration."
His expectation for growth is significant given that census data–which is collected every five years and released in different installments — has historically shown the province to have a declining population.
There was an exception in the most recent census, of 2011, when the number of New Brunswickers grew by almost three per cent over the previous period.
By that point, the national statistics agency said, the population had reached 751,171.
Statistics Canada will release the 2016 data on population and dwelling counts at 9:30 a.m. AT., and the size of the provincial population is something to watch for.
"It will tell us that we are on the right track and I think the next few years will be even more good news because of the direct and influential impact that immigration is going to have in terms of growing our provincial population," said Passaris, who believes strongly in a "direct correlation" between population and economic growth in this province.
The newly announced Atlantic Immigration Pilot, set to increase the region's allocation of immigrants, will also accelerate population growth, he said. However, the three-year project has yet to take effect, so won't be reflected until the 2021 census.
In the past, Passaris said, the province hasn't been able to retain newcomers with as much success as it has attracted them.
Accordingly, communities in New Brunswick need to become increasingly welcoming toward newcomers, he said, adding that the province needs to integrate these people socially and economically.
"We will need to provide them with the support that they need, particularly in the first years of their resettlement, in terms of making them feel happy and content and valued as new members of our province," Passaris said.
"All that will enhance not only the economic aspects of the potential contributions of a multicultural society, but will also enhance the social aspects and the qualitative aspects."
This coming fall, Statistics Canada will release the latest census data on immigration and ethnocultural diversity.
"This, to my way of thinking, is going to further underline the fact that we are going to have a significant, larger portion of immigrants, but from more diverse countries," he said.
The province, he continued, needs to both plan for this and see it as an opportunity, as New Brunswick can benefit by establishing a greater number of trade partners and investors and growing the provincial economy.
The shrinking north
The town of Dalhousie has watched a percentage of its population disappear with the release of each of the last three censuses. And this year is likely to be no different.
The town's clerk-treasurer, Gilles Legacy, says he thinks there will be a small decrease this year, as the town's young people are pursuing job opportunities elsewhere.
Legacy says he hopes the decrease is smaller this year than it was in 2011 [-4.5 per cent], but guesses that it will be at least two or three per cent.
Currently, Dalhousie is working on some projects, including a land giveaway program, to try to rejuvenate the town.
"We're working really hard on the tourism side of things with the Bay of Chaleur being one of the most beautiful bays in the world," Legacy said of projects that he hopes will take off this summer.
"So, we want to work with that or exploit that opportunity and the beauty of the area.
"Even if we had a summer migration, a bigger summer population, that would help us immensely."
However, these problems aren't exclusive to Dalhousie, and the town has, for example, partnered with nearby communities Charlo, Balmoral and Eel River Crossing to hire a shared economic development officer.
"We're all working towards the same goal," Legacy said.
"It's to bring more people here, and I think that if we can get some industries or some — not necessarily industries — but small businesses and keep developing, we'll be able to lure some more people to the area."