Dalhousie's giant power generating station has obstructed Everett Lavigne's view of the Bay of Chaleur for 40 years, still the retired mill worker is not looking forward to the structure being torn down

"It ruined my view but for the economy it was OK," Lavigne said.

NB Power shut down the oil-fired generator last year, the third major employer to cease operations in Dalhousie since 2008.

The effects of the closures and the hundreds of well-paid jobs they provided in the town of 3,500 are everywhere.

Empty store fronts litter both the main street and the Darlington Mall on the outskirts of town. More worrisome is the distinct lack of young people now making Dalhousie their home.


Everett Lavigne said the majority of people in the northern town of Dalhousie are retired. (CBC)

"I would estimate that 70 per cent of the people are retired," Lavigne said.

"It was hustle and bustle. Now, there's neither hustle nor bustle."

Dalhousie may well be New Brunswick's most scenic community, perched on a hill overlooking the Bay of Chaleur, it has panoramic views of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula.

But it has also been hit hardest by the economic trouble plaguing northern New Brunswick.

Like many in town, Lavigne built a 38-year career at the old NBIP paper mill that once employed 1,000. It was eventually turned over to Abitibi-Bowater who closed it in 2008

That caused the town's chemical plant, which serviced the mill, to close a short time later with the power plant adding to the trouble last year.

Lack of employment options

Lavigne said the lack of opportunities led his three sons to leave Dalhousie. They now all live and work in Alberta with their families, and his grandchildren, a heartache shared by many in the town.

Ralph Gilks, a retired Dalhousie police officer and firefighter, was hoping his four children could build a life for themselves in the community, but now only one remains. 

He said he believes all would return, including two who have settled in Alberta, if the economy could support them.

"I'm sure they would be back here tomorrow if they could. They come home two or three times a year," Gilks said.

"It's hard when you expect them to be here all your life and all of a sudden they're gone."

Shrinking student populations

Meanwhile, Janet Cooper, the principal of Dalhousie High School, has watched graduating classes at the school shrink year after year.

This year about 56 are expected to collect diplomas, about half of what Cooper awarded in her first year.

"The mill closed in Dalhousie, the thermal plant has closed and the chemical plant has closed and those men who worked there had families and many of those families have left the area," she said.

Declining school population is a problem all over northeastern New Brunswick.

According to the Department of Education enrolment in 74 French and English schools between Rexton and Campbellton plunged 7,300 students over the last 10 years, a loss rate nearly double the rest of the province.

Schools in and around Dalhousie have been losing students the fastest

Still residents have not lost hope Dalhousie will eventually see better days.

"It's a great town," Gilks said.

"It's a beautiful spot. I love it up here. We're hoping and praying something big can come to this town."