Demographic ‘challenge’

I keep hearing politicians, bureaucrats, pundits and economists talking about our ‘demographic challenge’. I have posted on this before but heading into an election season where this little term will become the scapegoat for the fact that three out of four cities, towns and villages in New Brunswick are in population decline, I thought I would make my point on this.

The term ‘demographic crisis’ is a clever little term made up to convince the public that it is something beyond the control of government policy and economic development activities.

It’s just a shift in demographics. Nobody’s fault. Sorry Miramichi for that.

But that’s a load of hogwash and anyone that thinks about it for two minutes would figure it out.

Alberta is in the midst of boom in young population. Not only are thousands of young families moving there every year, Alberta’s woman are dropping out of the workforce to have babies. They are building a massive new children’s hospital in Calgary. There are something like a dozen schools being built as we speak. Alberta has a demographic challenge – what to do with all the young people.

No, what we have in New Brunswick is an economic challenge which is having a number of impacts more broadly on society such as out-migration, increasing reliance on Equalization, etc.

Fix the economic challenge and then worry about demography.

Make no mistake. The population decline in New Brunswick has little to do with fertility and some mythical natural demographic shift. They said that about Ontario in the 1980s until they brought in 3 million immigrants. Presto, no demographic challenge anymore.

The next time you hear someone talk about our demographic problems you ask them why we have them to begin with. If they tell you it’s a natural population shift – you ask them about Alberta.

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