In 2017, we published one of the first in-depth examinations of how New Brunswick’s population is expected to change over the coming decades, both in terms of geographic distribution and numbers.
Principal researcher Dr. Paul Peters and the NB-IRDT team developed a scenario-based forecasting model to try to predict what New Brunswick’s population distribution will be in 2036 under different rates of fertility, mortality, and migration. Each scenario is based on observed rates within the population, either over the long-term or in the most recent periods.
The research team looked at population forecasts by county and by health region, forecasting how each would perform under low, medium, and high growth conditions.
In 2018, NB-IRDT ran the numbers again, this time using the most recent 2016 Census data. While the updated forecasting largely echoed the results from the model using the 2011 Census data, there were some notable differences in the 2018 report.
Both the 2017 and 2018 forecast models show that Fredericton and Moncton are the only regions of the province expected to experience population growth under all scenarios. In the latest iteration, low growth conditions could see the Fredericton region (York County) grow by a modest 4,600 people while the Moncton area (Westmoreland County) could see growth of 10,400. In the highest growth scenario (high fertility, low mortality, high immigration, and low out-migration), the Moncton and Fredericton areas could see growth approximately 35,000 and 19,000 respectively.
The two forecasts differ when it comes to the City of Saint John (Saint John County). In the 2017 report, Saint John County was predicted to see population growth of 877 in the highest growth scenario but population decline in all other scenarios. Neighbouring Kings County (with the towns of Rothesay and Quispamsis) showed the potential for growth ranging from 1600 to 6600 in all scenarios.In the 2018 report using the latest census data, the model forecasts population decline for Saint John under every growth scenario and more modest growth predictions and some population decline scenarios for Kings County (Rothesay and Quispamsis).
For all other counties in New Brunswick, both reports forecast population decline over the 20-year forecast period, with Restigouche County predicted to experience the highest percentage population decline in the 2018 report (between 17-25%).
By comparing the different scenarios against one another, the NB-IRDT research team can offer a prediction of the impact of certain policy decisions on population growth. For example, efforts to stop population loss from inter-provincial migration and enabling higher rates of immigration increases the population of province by nearly 25,000 by 2036. These population forecasts are based on past trends. Lots can change in a short time and when it comes to predicting populations of small areas, just a few people can make a significant difference to forecast numbers.