New Brunswick

Dalhousie hopes free land can combat population decline

Dalhousie saw one of the largest population decreases in northern New Brunswick over the past five years, according to the 2016 census, but the town plans to offer free property in a bid to lure new businesses.

Community saw one of the largest population decreases in northern New Brunswick in 2016 census

Dalhousie saw one of the largest population decreases in northern New Brunswick over the past five years, according to the 2016 census, but the town hopes its offer of free property to new businesses will help turn things around.

Some of the other ideas council has include creating a new subdivision to attract young families, building cottages at the marina to boost tourism, and putting a turbine in a municipal pipeline to generate electricity, said Mayor Normand Pelletier.

The town announced plans for the land giveway in January, and the dismal population statistics released this week have strengthened its resolve.

"This council, myself and our new administrator are going to do our best to jump start the economy in our town," Pelletier said.

"I want Dalhousie to be the Shediac of the north."

But the town can't do it alone, said Pelletier.

"Hopefully, the provincial and federal governments [will] help us when we come knocking at their door."

Dalhousie lost 386 people between 2011 and 2016, the figures released by Statistics Canada show. The town's population was cut to 3,126, a decrease of 11 per cent.

Pelletier said he is "disappointed," but not surprised, given the steady pattern of decline. The population dropped by 4.5 per cent in the last census, 6.7 per cent in the 2006 census and 11.7 per cent in 2001.

Pellier, who was born and raised in Dalhousie, has lived through the loss of the Abitibi-Bowater paper mill and chemical plant in 2008 and the loss of the NB Power generating station in 2011.

"Tradesmen who used to work in those industries, they packed up and left … to go out west for jobs," he said.

Today, he estimates about three-quarters of the town's population are seniors.

"So we're losing them slowly but surely."

And the youth the town does have don't stick around after graduation, said Pelletier. They head off to universities in larger centres, such as Moncton, Fredericton or Saint John, or community colleges in Bathurst, Miramichi or Edmundston.

Still, Pelletier is confident Dalhousie can bounce back.

It has a lot to offer, he said, from the "beautiful" Restigouche River and Appalachian Mountains on the Quebec side, to its anglophone and francophone high schools, and its wide range of sports facilities, including an arena, soccer fields and tennis courts.

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