New Brunswick

Destination New Brunswick: Canadians moving east drive province's population to record high

New Brunswick has seen its biggest influx of Canadians moving into the province in 46 years.

3,533 people from other provinces moved to NB over the winter, the most in 46 years

Melinda Hervieux (centre holding toddler) and her husband Jason Connors have an extended family in Ontario but plan to move with their four youngest children to Bathurst next month. (Submitted)

Melinda Hervieux and her husband have been saving for a house near Niagara Falls in Welland Ontario but as they worked remotely from home during the pandemic they suddenly realized  they were free to live and earn a living anywhere. 

After going online and filling out a real estate wish list of what they wanted in a home for themselves and their four youngest children they received an unexpected suggestion —  Bathurst, New Brunswick.

"We started thinking, 'Well, why are we trying to save for a house that's going to cost us a fortune?'," said Hervieux about living in southern Ontario

"Every month we're going to be working just to pay for our house. Why don't we just move to New Brunswick, where the houses are cheaper?" 

It's a conversation hundreds of Canadian families have been having over the last year and it has helped trigger what has become the largest in-migration of people from other provinces to New Brunswick in two generations, 

On Thursday, Statistics Canada reported  3,533 people from elsewhere in Canada had moved to New Brunswick in January, February and March, the largest number to arrive during those winter months since 1975. 

After accounting for 2,328 people who left for other provinces during the same period, the exchange of migrants in New Brunswick's favour helped boost its population to a record 783,721.

The largest net influx by far has been people moving from Ontario.  During the pandemic, starting in April 2020, the province has gained a net 1,176 people over 12 months from the larger province. 

It's the highest number of people moving in that direction from Ontario in 45 years, according to Stacey Hallman, a demography analyst with Statistics Canada.

"It's a factor of both the in-migrants and the out-migrants. In-migrants (to New Brunswick) are higher and out-migrants are lower," she said.

One of the first Ontario arrivals to New Brunswick during the pandemic was Hayley Burrell, who bought a house with her fiance in Grand-Barachois just before COVID-19 was detected in Canada. 

She had to wait out the first lockdown in her old home of London, Ontario before getting permission to move east.

A year later, Burrell calls the decision "the best thing we could ever have done for ourselves." 

Hayley Burrell and her fiance Mike Dalgleish with their dog Rory enjoying Aboiteau Beach on the Northumberland Strait near their home.  She calls the move from London Ontario to New Brunswick one year ago “the best thing we could ever have done for ourselves.” (submitted)

She is now a real estate agent in south eastern New Brunswick and moderates a Facebook group for people interested in moving to the province like she did.

"When we started looking for a new home we knew we just wanted out of Ontario," said Burrell.

"We started looking across the country and it  was the real estate prices and what you can get for your money here that brought us here." 

Burrell said recent escalations in real estate prices in New Brunswick, caused in part by the influx of new people, is so far not deterring others from coming, because in many cases homes they are selling in Ontario are also appreciating.

"Prices here are a different universe," she said. 

"We sold a three bedroom semi–detached in London with a very tiny backyard for about $100,000 more than what we bought our home here for — and here we live on seven acres."

An apartment building going up in Moncton. New Brunswick builders had more housing units under construction this winter than any winter since 1975 to meet high demand. (Shane Magee/CBC)

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a house sold in New Brunswick in March was up to $258,558, but was still less than one third of the average price of a home in Ontario

In March the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation cited the flow of Canadians into New Brunswick as one of a number of factors boosting home sales and prices in the province along with low interest rates, a lack of homes for sale and an improving economy.

But it also noted those effects may be temporary as homebuilders race to construct places to meet the new demand. 

According to the CMHC 2,967 housing units were under construction in New Brunswick during the first quarter of 2021, 804 more than one year earlier and double the number from 2019.

CMHC economist Tad Mangwengwende said building more homes should eventually help ease runaway prices. 

"When we see the prices increasing it means there are people that want to get into home ownership. There are people putting bids on houses. They need to find those houses," he said.

The average price of houses sold in Ontario in March was $862,276 according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. That's more than three times higher than the average in New Brunswick. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

"You can have more and more of the supply side easing that pressure."

In addition there are still many affordable spots left in New Brunswick, like Melinda Hervieux has discovered in and around Bathurst.

Hervieux said she grew up in Northern Ontario and her husband is originally from the west coast and the two are convinced the community's proximity to both the ocean and vast stretches of forest is exactly what their family needs.   

"I want to be able to give them that and New Brunswick has that," said Hervieux.

"It's a beautiful area  And not too busy."   

They are planning their move for next month.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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