There is a pervasive view that in order for New Brunswick to grow it has to empty its rural population into its urban centres. We are too rural and that is the problem we are told.
Once again many people are mistaken. We are not too rural, we are not enough urban.
That is a huge distinction with significant public policy implications.
Across Canada, the rural population has actually been on the rise (for the most part) for many decades. In 1951, there were 5.4 million people living in ‘rural’ Canada according to Statistics Canada and by 2011 there are something like 6.3 million. Very slow growth – but growth.
The problem in New Brunswick is not our need to empty rural New Brunswick – it’s that we haven’t been growing our urban centres. That is where much of the policy focus needs to be be.
We need strong and growing urban centres and that will have spinoff impacts in the rural periphery. For the small towns and rural areas outside of the urban areas, hopefully a strong natural resources sector and others that are suited to these areas can be exploited.
But I am quite shocked when I hear people talk about emptying rural and Northern NB as the solution to our problems.
If we followed the national trend, New Brunswick’s rural regions could grow slowly, it’s small urbans could do reasonably well (i.e. Bathurst and Edmundston) and its large urbans would grow strongly.