A New Brunswick economist is warning that Atlantic Canadians will become second-class citizens because of its aging population.

Richard Saillant, director of the Donald J. Savoie Institute based at the University of Moncton, is predicting dire economic consequences for the eastern provinces within 10 years due to the region's rapidly changing demographics,with drastic implications for government services.

"Health care, free, universal as we know it will no longer exist," said Saillant, because the health care spending as a percentage of GDP will be twice as high as it is right now."

"People are already saying that it's straining public finances, it's 40 per cent of the provincial budgets at this point. Imagine when you double that amount of money as older individuals cost much more to the system," Saillant said.

One in five Atlantic Canadians is a senior citizen, he said, but in 20 years, that proportion will be one in three, which is why he is calling for a new way to transfer federal funding for health care.

"Equalization only takes into account revenues, not needs," he said.

"Our needs will be greater."

In the past Saillant has publicly recommended tough medicine for New Brunswick, including closing some schools to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio, and taking advantage of every economic opportunity, possibly even shale gas development.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported that Richard Saillant predicted "financial ruin" for all four Atlantic provinces within 10 years. Rather, Mr. Saillant has said he predicts dire financial consequences and second-class citizenship in the Atlantic provinces in the next decade.
    Mar 17, 2016 4:08 PM AT