New Brunswick

Number of New Brunswick births tumbles 17 per cent to record low

The number of births in New Brunswick has fallen to a new low.

1,095 fewer babies were born in 2018 in New Brunswick, preliminary figures show

Preliminary numbers from the Vital Statistics Office indicate 5,448 babies were born in New Brunswick in 2018.

The number of births in New Brunswick has fallen to a new low.

Preliminary numbers from the Vital Statistics Office say 5,448 babies were born in 2018, down from 6,543 in 2017, according to a provincial government news release.

This means 1,095 fewer babies were born last year, representing a 17 per cent drop for New Brunswick, which is already the only province in Canada with a shrinking population. 

Michael Haan, the Canada Research Chair on migration and ethnic relations at Western University, said there's a reason for the low birth rate.

"What we're seeing in Canada, not just New Brunswick, is people are delaying the birth of their first child, which gives them fewer years where they could potentially grow their family even if they wanted to," Haan said.

Michael Haan is the Canada Research Chair on migration and ethnic relations at Western University says economic factors have discouraged some people from having babies. (CBC)

The gap between the number of births and deaths in New Brunswick has been widening significantly as well. The most recent figures are for 2017, when 656 more people died in the province than were born.

The final figures on the number of deaths in the province in 2018 have not been released.

Haan said other countries, including Russia and France, have tried to increase their birth rates but their attempts have been written off as failures.   

"The cost of having a child is so prohibitively high that giving people free subway tickets or enhanced access to the front of a line for a hotel or museum isn't going to abate the costs of having one or more children."

Luring people back

The province has been trying to attract new people and lure others back since population growth started to weaken, then not happen at all.

New Brunswick's population dropped to 747,101 in 2016, down from 751,171 five years earlier. 

Matt Dinan, father of four in Fredericton, said he thinks it's a shame the birth numbers are dropping. Dinan and his wife Vivien Zelazny moved back to Fredericton a few years ago after living in the United States.

Matt Dinan says he thinks it's a shame the birth numbers are dropping in New Brunswick. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"We love living here," Dinan said. "We moved back here after living in the states for almost a decade and we can't think of a better place to raise a family.

"I used to live in Massachusetts and you know if I was really lucky and left early — 45 minutes, that's, like, the best day ever for a commute where we lived. Our apartment was significantly more expensive than our house, our mortgages here. It was more difficult because we were far away from our family."   

Haan said he thinks there are ways the province can promote living in New Brunswick.

"I know in the past, New Brunswick has sent out convoys to major cities, trying to lure people back from where they are and I think it might be useful to hit some of the rural areas as well as urban areas," Haan said.

"You're likely to see people that not only are more likely to move but are more likely to stay in the province," he said.

'There is hope'  

In an email to CBC News on Wednesday, the government of New Brunswick said the birth numbers won't be finalized until the end of April.

Valerie Kilfoil, director of communications for the Executive Council Office, said the annual change in the December stats versus April ones isn't specifically tracked. She said how much the number increases or decreases by depends on how quickly officials can get the birth registrations from hospitals and how complete the registrations are.

"What takes time and is difficult to predict is the followup work needed to be done to finalize a birth registration once received from a facility in instances where information and certification (parents signature) are missing," Kilfoil said in an email.

"Some records may be completed after one communication while others may take two or more followup communications to get completed."

The government predicts the final numbers will be in keeping with 2017.

Vivien Zelazny and Matt Dinan, who live in Fredericton with their four children, moved back to the province after 10 years in the U.S. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Haan predicted there will likely to be one or two more years of declining birth rates.

"After that, what's going to happen is it will stabilize and then you'll probably see a population that hovers around 747,000 people," he said.

"There is hope."

Dinan said he hopes people change their mind about New Brunswick.

"I think that this province doesn't speak about itself in a good way. I think we have this antiquated image of ourselves as being sort of industrial or something, and you know the kind of fun, nice place to live is Nova Scotia or something," Dinan said.

"I think that it's time that people in New Brunswick start thinking of ourselves as [living in] a desirable location."

With files from Catherine Harrop and Vanessa Vander Valk

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