My wife pointed out yesterday the obituary of a woman we knew from church. She was a nice lady and lived a long and seemingly happy life. But as I read the obit it was amazing to see that every brother, sister, child, grandchild – everyone mentioned did not live in New Brunswick. It was two paragraphs of Toronto, New York, California, on and on.
Curiosity about that has driven much of my thinking about economic development for the last 20 years. Why do places like New Brunswick chronically shed people – not for a few years or a few decades but for generations?
It matters even more these days because 40-50 years ago the natural birth/death rate was tilted significantly to the birth side which compensated for the out-migration. Now the birth/death rate is about 1:1 so we are going to either a) keep our young people, b) attract migrants, c) attract immigrants or d) a combination of all of the above.
Of course I am compelled to reiterate that I am not advocating efforts to force people to stay in New Brunswick. I even chafe at those grants to keep new graduates in the province. I think more, not less, New Brunswickers should spend time outside the province (I did and it was a great experience).
I also think that we need to attract talent from across Canada and immigrants – this type of infusion I think would help a lot.
But in the end if the economy can’t sustain its local population, it’s hard to imagine it will be able to sustain immigrants (hence the significant out-migration rate among new immigrants to NB).
Once in a while I will ask people in their 70s and even 80s about this and the usual response is a shrug. “That’s just the way it’s always been in New Brunswick”.
Hence my curiosity.