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Michael Haan, a UNB expert in population trends, says New Brunswick is undergoing profound demographic change. (YouTube)

A researcher at the University of New Brunswick says that New Brunswick is at the start of another surge in out-migration.

Michael Haan, UNB’s Canada Research Chair in Population and Social Policy, said Wednesday western Canadian economics are the driving factor.

The movement of New Brunswickers to Alberta slowed during the recession, but is picking up again as the economy warms up again in the west.

Haan acknowledged that the data is imperfect, saying that government policies can make it harder to compile statistics about out-migration. He would like to see information gathered via health cards, which is not possible under current regulations.

"We need a location to store confidential data; we would need the Attorney General to say the questions … are of sufficient interest to the province that we will allow these data to be used for a purpose other than what they were originally intended," said Hann.

Meanwhile, Haan has taken interest in a list made in the village of McAdam, where people in the community collected the names of people who have left for Fort McMurray.

The people of McAdam started the list earlier this year. It currently stands at 83 names. Haan said the list could provide a valuable indicator of overall out-migration trends in the province, a boon for studying population trends.

"I think it's a very powerful statement of the level of awareness that's developing on the ground in these small communities, where people are saying there's something very serious happening here," Haan said.

"We are undergoing profound demographic change. We individually want to know more about it, so what we're going to do is we're going to keep a list."

Haan said he intends to contact the people behind the list in McAdam.

The province is working on better ways to keep track of out-migration, he said, but there remain significant hurdles to getting the information through government data.