Urbanization in New Brunswick

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By Patrick Webber, AIMS Research Associate

New Brunswick is often thought of as a rural province, a perception aided by the province being the only one in Atlantic Canada that lacks a single dominant urban area. New Brunswick instead has three major urban areas of comparable population (Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton). However, census data over the last 25 years (1991-2016) show that New Brunswick is not only becoming an increasingly urban province, but that in terms of share of people living in “big cities,” New Brunswick has the most urban population in Atlantic Canada.

As the chart shows, the 2016 census found that just shy of one-half of New Brunswickers lived in the big three metropolitan areas, up from 42.5 percent in 1991.

The raw population numbers further illustrate the degree to which New Brunswick is becoming an urban place. Between 1991 and 2016, the population of the big three metro areas rose from 307,992 to 372,772, an increase of 21 percent. The rest of New Brunswick, meanwhile, saw its population during the same period decline from 415,908 to 374,329, a drop of 10 percent.

The percentage of New Brunswick’s population that lives in the three “big cities” in 2016 was 49.9. This makes New Brunswick the Atlantic province with the largest share of its population living in “big” urban centres. By comparison, 39.6 percent of Newfoundland & Labrador’s population lives in metro St. John’s, 43.7 percent of Nova Scotia’s population lives in metro Halifax, and 48.5 percent of PEI’s population lives in metro Charlottetown.

Fiscal Management Act a positive option for Atlantic First Nations

(Photo: destination Membertou)

By Joseph Quesnel, AIMS Fellow

Despite all the doom and gloom we often hear about First Nations in Atlantic Canada, there are some good news stories out there. In particular, it may be news to some that there is an approach to improving First Nations that has strong evidence to back it up.

In 2016, three First Nations from Atlantic Canada were added to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA), which means in 2017 that they now have access to First Nation institutions that have been proven to improve indigenous wellbeing.

The three Nova Scotia-based Indigenous communities that were added to the schedule of the FNFMA were: Acadia First Nation, Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, and Sipekne’katik.

The FNFMA proves that voluntary outside accreditation is a strong way for First Nations to improve their communities and participate in their local economies.

The FNFMA regime is great because it is voluntary for First Nations and is run by First Nation institutions. With the addition of new bands in 2016, the total number of bands under the FNFMA schedule is up to 211. The FNFMA came into force in 2006, but this option is growing in popularity among First Nations.

The FNFMA allows participating bands to gain authority over financial management, property taxation and local revenues, and financing for infrastructure and economic development.

Through the First Nations Tax Commission, FNFTA-compliant communities can tax real property on reserve lands and raise local revenues. These are own-source funds in addition to federal transfer funds.

The good news? The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board found that First Nations that have real property taxation bylaws tend to have better economic outcomes than those that do not.

The last part of the FNFMA is very important. It allows First Nations to prove they are subject to strong financial management practices and as a result access financing for important things such as infrastructure. First, the bands must receive certification through the First Nations Financial Management Board. To obtain this certificate, a First Nation must have a financial administration law that meets First Nations Financial Management Board standards.  Then, finally, the First Nation may access funding through the First Nation Finance Authority. This allows participating First Nations to enter the bond market and access the kind of capital they need at lower interest rates to meaningfully participate in major economic projects.

The First Nation Finance Authority has lent $343 million to 41 First Nations since 2014.

Atlantic First Nations are not new to the FNFMA experience. Membertou First Nation on Cape Breton Island provided one of the best examples of borrowing from the First Nation Finance Authority. That community used its loan to refinance a commercial loan and save over $140,000 a month from the difference in interest rates.

2017 will be interesting to watch as we see what these three Atlantic First Nations do with their new access to the FNFMA.










Opening of airline ownership rules is good news for travelers

(Stanfield International Airport. Photo credit: Nova Scotia Department of Tourism)

By Jackson Doughart, Research Coordinator

The Globe and Mail reports that the federal government intends to introduce legislation allowing greater foreign ownership in Canada’s airline industry. The announcement comes from the office of Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

If the legislation passes, it will increase the limit on foreign ownership from 25 percent to 49 percent. In the meantime, two new airline companies will be granted exemptions to the present 25 percent rule, allowing them to move toward offering discount flights by Summer 2018.

This is unquestionably good news for Canadian travelers. Unlike their counterparts in Europe or the United States, they do not benefit from ultra-low cost carriers to compete with the mainstream airlines. Thanks in part to the cap on foreign ownership, Westjet and Air Canada lack competition. It is no surprise that one can only fly domestically by paying exorbitant fares.

Regulations of this kind are analogous to protectionism, limiting investment in Canadian airlines from a worldwide market in financial capital. As when a jurisdiction removes barriers to the trade of goods, the principal benefactor to accepting more sources of airline investment will be consumers, whose costs decline. Plus, the appetite for more international investment is not merely theoretical: the case of the two airlines granted immediate exemptions shows that foreign investors are willing to contribute to an untapped market for discount airlines immediately.

Mr. Garneau is right to anticipate that introducing more competition will result in lower fares. The benefit will accrue to travelers, of course, but also to the country as a whole. With Canada’s peculiar geography – including a population spread mostly beside the long U.S. border – impediments such as high air fares limit travel for many people, thereby reinforcing the country’s persistent regionalism. Lower costs will motivate more air travel, and with hope greater exchange – both economic and cultural – between Canadians from different regions.

The new law would ensure that Canadians remain the majority shareholder in domestic airlines. This is a rule worthy of scrutiny as well; but for now, the effective doubling of allowed foreign ownership is an excellent step for Canadian travelers.