In Brief: Boosting population numbers isn’t the only issue facing Atlantic provinces. As AIMS Director of Research Ian Munro points out in this news story, any plan to increase population should also address the changing demographics.

MONCTON, N.B. – The New Brunswick government says it will make the Maritime province more attractive for its own citizens and for immigrants as it plots a course to boost the population by 100,000 over the next two decades.

Greg Byrne, minister responsible for the Population Growth Secretariat, said Tuesday the government’s strategy will focus on increasing immigration, retaining young people and repatriating New Brunswickers who have left the province for opportunities elsewhere.

“The measures are aimed at all the groups we are targeting – immigrants, expatriates, and those we want to retain,” Byrne said at a news conference in Moncton, N.B.

The minister said government will ensure that childbearing and childrearing are not detrimental to a family’s economic health and that quality day care will be made affordable.

Byrne said the government will encourage the development of family-friendly workplaces and will offer more assistance for immigrants and multi-cultural services.

The Liberal government is hoping that several major construction projects on the horizon, including a possible new oil refinery in Saint John, N.B., will help lure new workers and retain people already living in the province.

Byrne said the government is establishing specific targets.

“We intend to increase our population by 6,000 through 2009 and 25,000 by 2015,” he said.

“This will put us on track to grow our population by 100,000 by 2026.”

The province also intends to increase immigration by 5,000 by 2015.

According to Statistics Canada, New Brunswick’s population is 750,851.

“Population decline is probably the biggest challenge in our communities, in our economy and in our families across New Brunswick,” Premier Shawn Graham said in a recent speech.

“We need to turn the tide in population decline.”

Analysts have described Atlantic Canadian population as stagnant, with little or no growth.

“Generally it has been pretty flat since 2000 while Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have been growing at quite a clip,” said Ian Munro of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a think-tank based in Halifax.

“It’s not just the absolute numbers that are problematic. It’s the fact that trends will lead to a population in 20 to 30 years much more weighted towards senior citizens who are no longer in the workforce generating tax revenue but are consuming more and more public services, particularly health care.”

Munro said New Brunswick’s goal of 100,000 more people by 2026 is very ambitious.

“It’s not impossible,” he said. “There’s no harm in setting an optimistic goal. But would I bet money on it? That remains to be seen.”