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.

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