Canadians chasing an East Coast lifestyle fuel population jump in New Brunswick

·3 min read
Fredericton's U-Haul rental location was jammed with trucks and trailers last fall as thousands more people moved into New Brunswick than out. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
Fredericton's U-Haul rental location was jammed with trucks and trailers last fall as thousands more people moved into New Brunswick than out. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick's population grew faster than the national average last year, despite ongoing declines in its birth rate, as thousands of Canadians continue to leave larger provinces and migrate east.

"These are levels that have not been seen in a long time," said Sébastien Lavoie, an analyst with Statistics Canada's Centre for Demography about the number of those arriving in the region from other provinces.

According to new estimates released Wednesday, New Brunswick added 6,021 people over 12 months ending July 1. It's the sixth year in a row of solid population growth for a province that had seen its numbers stagnate less than a decade ago.

Between 2012 and 2015 New Brunswick grew by just 464 people but since 2015 has added 65 times that number — 30,383.

Last year most of the growth was the result of people like Salma Burney moving to New Brunswick from another province.

Burney and her husband built a life together in southern Ontario but last year picked up, sold their house and moved to rural New Brunswick.

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Tired of what Burney said was a "work, eat, sleep, rinse and repeat" life in Hamilton, the couple found an old farmhouse and large piece of land listed for sale in Anagance and bought it sight unseen.

They have renovated, installed solar panels and a wind turbine and opened an "Off Grid" campground and adventure business.

"Compared to what we were doing in Hamilton, it doesn't feel like work," said Burney. "Being here has been wonderful."

According to the data, New Brunswick gained a net number of 3,887 people from other provinces over 12 months, the highest number in 45 years, Added to that was a nearly equal number of international immigrants and non–permanent residents who are beginning to make it through relaxing COVID border restrictions.

The arrival of large numbers of people from elsewhere has had a number of impacts.

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Real estate prices have shot up in New Brunswick with an increased demand for housing. Apartment vacancy rates have also declined for similar reasons, with average rents shooting up in response.

But the influx has also energized many communities.

In the past, relocations to New Brunswick have been dominated by retirees moving home after a life of working in other provinces, but Lavoie said the data suggests this time it is mostly younger age groups making the trek.

"It's not necessarily people who are retiring. We don't see a boost of the older ages in the numbers." he said.

Many arrivals also have no prior connection to the area at all.

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Shannon Park is in that group.

She and her children, her partner and the children's father all moved to Saint John from British Columbia earlier this year looking for a better quality of life.

"It was during COVID. We just started to assess what it was we wanted in a home," said Park.

They wanted to live in a small city but one with a decent selection of restaurants and cultural activities and they wanted to be near the ocean.

"We started to make a list of things that we would want. We just basically looked all over Canada and Saint John checked all the boxes."

Robert Jones/CBC
Robert Jones/CBC

Two of her three children have started school, her partner has found work locally and she is resuming a career as a professional photographer.

"We heard everyone is so nice. It's a cliche but everyone was so welcoming. Our experience so far has been great," said Park.

The arrival of young families is particularly needed in New Brunswick.

The province has one of Canada's oldest populations and would be shrinking quickly if not for newcomers.

Wednesday's figures also showed a record low 6,222 babies born in New Brunswick last year, not nearly enough to match the 8,000 people who died.

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