Population has increased 6,393 people since January 2007, now stands at 751,300

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s population has officially grown by 6,000 people – four months late of a self-imposed government benchmark spread out over two years.

New numbers released from Statistics Canada yesterday showed that New Brunswick had its largest first-quarter net inflow of interprovincial migration since 1990, adding 400 people to its people count between January and April.

In that four-month span, New Brunswick’s population grew 0.08 per cent to 751,300.

It’s also an increase of 6,393 people since January 2007 when the Liberals said they’d grow the provincial population by 6,000 before the end of 2009.

What the government said was supposed to happen on Jan. 1 happened on April 1 instead.

“If we’re a quarter late I’ll apologize for that,” said Deputy Premier Donald Arseneault, who’s also Minister responsible for Population Growth Secretariat. “But at the end of the day, the fact we have almost 6,400 new people in New Brunswick since taking office, I think it speaks volumes about what we’re doing.”

“We’re pretty proud of that and it shows that the number of initiatives we’ve put forward, our new taxation policy, our tuition cash back rebate … these are programs that are very popular and one of the many factors in people choosing New Brunswick to make their home.”

The province’s population growth goals are in a sense just beginning.

By 2015, the province says there should be a population increase of 25,000 people, leading to an increase of 100,000 people by 2026.

Those goals seem optimistic in the face of projections which suggest a population plummet in New Brunswick.

A November 2009 report from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) suggested that New Brunswick’s population might plummet to 666,700 people by 2046 – a loss of 79,000 people from 2006 numbers, or a 10.5 per cent decrease (making up about 1.6 per cent of the nation’s estimated total population in 2046).

The projections from the AIMS report largely assumed that current fertility levels and mortality rates would continue, acknowledging that migration numbers were difficult to forecast.

Arseneault dismissed those doubts yesterday, saying the goals set fourth to 2026 were achievable, adding that many thought it would be impossible to reverse nine straight quarters of population decline (about 4,300 people) in New Brunswick.

“What a difference a Liberal government has made,” said Arseneault.

Progressive Conservative MLA Trevor Holder took issue with Arseneault’s suggestion that a Tory government under Bernard Lord did nothing to address population declines, calling it Liberal election-year posturing.

Holder said Lord’s Tories created a strategy to reverse population declines before the 2006 provincial election.

“I think what we need to do is take politics out of this,” he said.

Holder said he believed the province’s population growth of adding 100,000 new people by 2026 was achievable, adding that it would be a priority under a Tory government.

A milestone of another sort was met across the country with yesterday’s new numbers. Canada’s population is for the first time ever above the 34-million mark, an increase of 0.26 per cent since the new year.

All provinces and territories saw their populations increase during the first quarter, except for Nova Scotia which saw a quarter-to-quarter population drop of 0.03 per cent.

The highest population increase was in Nunavut with 1.05 per cent growth.