New Brunswick

'It was really a no-brainer for me': Toronto man says he was able to retire by relocating to Saint John

Former Toronto resident Mike Demmer googled cheap places to live in Canada, and found Saint John.

Toronto resident's move part of population bump for province

Mike Demmer retired when he turned 50 years old and chose Saint John as his new home because of its quality of life. 0:50

Mike Demmer is one of New Brunswick's newest residents.  

He came in June from Ontario, part of the largest wave of people from other provinces to move to New Brunswick in more than 40 years.

Although he's happy to talk about why he did it, he doesn't have a lot of time to meet.

"Leaving at six to play tennis," he explained while offering to fit in an interview before that.

Demmer lived in Toronto and vividly recalls the afternoon he was sitting in his office and decided, site unseen, he was going to move east..

"I'd never been to the Martimes," he said

"I was just at work one day and I noticed the real estate market in Toronto and Vancouver — basically everywhere — was going crazy and the choice was work another 15 years, or move and play tennis."

Low cost living

Single and in his 50s, Demmer figured he could still afford to retire after 26 years with Lufthansa Airlines if he could find a low cost community to settle in. But he needed somewhere cosmopolitan enough to support his three hobbies — tennis, hiking and mountain biking.

"I googled cheap places to live in Canada and Saint John came up," Demmer said. 

It was really a no-brainer for me.- Mike Demmer

"Then I just started googling things about Saint John and found the nature park, the tennis club in Rothesay, Rockwood Park, New River Beach."  

"Should I work another 15 years or enjoy life now? It was really a no brainier for me." 

Demmer flew to Saint John in the spring to find a place to live.  

Local realtor Joanne Savoie picked him up at the airport to show him around and jokes now she was wondering if he was for real.

"I said to my husband and my sons 'Look, if I don't give you a phone call in 20 minutes my GPS is on.' But it worked out really well." 

House purchase part of plan

By the end of the day, Demmer paid a deposit on a $110,000 bungalow with a big view of the St. John River — barely enough to finance a couple of parking spaces back home, he figures.

"I fell in love with it as soon as she showed it to me," he said from his back deck. "In Toronto you could probably get this view but you'd be paying several million dollars for it." 

Demmer's move was personal, but also part of a bigger story unfolding at the time.

Figures show he is one of 6,856 people who moved to N.B. from another province during the first six months of 2017. It's the largest influx of Canadian residents to N.B. during the first half of a year since 1976.

A lot of those people are former N.B. residents coming home, but Demmer is in a different category, and he believes there may be a lesson in his experience for those trying to grow the province's population.

People like him in major Canadian cities should be told they could retire tomorrow simply by moving east. 

"Others who are in a better situation than me — who own a million dollar home in Toronto — they could cash it in, come out here and enjoy the good life," said Demmer.

More could move to city

Joanne Savoie agrees with that.

She said while she has dealt with several immigrant families drawn to the affordability of living in N.B., there is no reason other Canadians could not be lured for the same reason.

Realtor Joanne Savoie says a lot of people are moving to Saint John because of the low cost of living compared to other parts of Canada. (Submitted)
"There are a lot of people coming here because of the cost of living," said Savoie. 

"They go around and they meet the people and they realize that everybody is so easy to get along with and so helpful and it's beautiful here. I take them and drive them all the different spots and they really do fall in love."

Demmer insisted that's exactly what happened to him although settling in did take a couple of weeks.

"I absolutely love it," he said. "I love the people. There's no traffic. It's peaceful. I couldn't sleep for the first week because there was no noise. Just crickets."   

About the Author

Robert Jones


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.