Immigration and Population Growth in Rural Communities: What can we learn from New Brunswick?


This blog post focuses on New Brunswick and the steps being taken to grow its population, including immigration and promoting immigrant entrepreneurship.

What does New Brunswick have to do with rural Ontario? These two regions actually have quite a lot in common:

  • sparsely populated, with some regions growing slowly and others actually losing population
  • larger native/First Nations populations than immigrant populations
  • rural primary economies best known for forestry, mining, mixed farming, and fishing
  • varied and stunning natural beauty

Municipalities in rural Ontario may be able to benefit from learning about some of the knowledge and successful programs underway in New Brunswick.

A Population Growth Strategy

The entire province of New Brunswick is home to just over 750,000 persons. It has made population growth a priority, releasing strategies to grow its population in 2008 and again in 2014. The growth strategy outlined in Be our future: New Brunswick’s Population Growth Strategy (Population Growth Secretariat, 2008) identified four areas of focus:

  • increasing and targeting immigration
  • increasing settlement and promoting multiculturalism
  • retaining youth and repatriating former New Brunswickers; and
  • adopting family-friendly policies.

The 2014 strategy is similar in focus: repatriation, attraction, retention and immigration.

hl-michael-haan Research commissioned to support the growth strategy includes the report Retention and Economic Contributions of Immigrants to New Brunswick, 2005-2012 (New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training, February 2015) by Michael Haan and Elena Prokopenko. This report analyzes relevant data in the Longitudinal Immigrant Database (IMDB), a unique administrative file containing landing and tax filing information on Canadian immigrants, to learn more about immigration in New Brunswick. Immigrant retention based on actual tax filing rather than from those who list NB is intended destination but either never actually went there or left very quickly before filing taxes.

“According to the data analysis, retention rates surpass 70% for all landing cohorts but one (2009) between 2005 and 2012, with many cohorts surpassing 80% retention rates.   Immigrants who stay in New Brunswick show strong growth in their earnings and low rates of using social assistance. Of those that leave, many appear to do so shortly, if not immediately, after landing. Federal Skilled Workers and Provincial Nominees are the most mobile.”

The province continues to struggle with population growth and retention, but there are signs of progress. Fewer than 1% of immigrants to Canada land in New Brunswick, but the percent is climbing steadily upward, from 0.42 in 2005 to 0.86 in 2012. Immigration numbers are small, but they have doubled in this period (Haan and Prokopenko, p. 6).

Success Factors for Immigrant Retention

In an interview with CBC News, report co-author Michael Haan credits the growth in immigration to the province’s efforts. In particular, New Brunswick worked to develop infrastructure such as settlement services, multicultural centres, as well as language and employment programs.

Some engaged citizens of New Brunswick feel that the province needs to do better yet in terms of immigrant attraction and retention.


Mike Timani, the president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, argues that immigrants are job creators, noting that his own bakery in Moncton has grown from three employees to 60 workers. Between the employees and their families, Timani’s immigration has generated a considerable local economic impact. Speaking to CBC News, Timani stated that

“Immigrants are better served when they are properly educated about their destination and when they get help on the ground.”



Jerry Yu, president of the Saint John Chinese Cultural Association, (from same CBC article) says that

“Support should also include better advice and guidance for entrepreneurs.   According to Yu, about half the Chinese immigrants that he meets in New Brunswick tend to leave for larger urban centres. Sometimes this is because they immigrate intending to set up a business, but their business plans are not viable in New Brunswick.”

Supporting Entrepreneurial Immigrants

The province of New Brunswick has gained recognition with several programs to help immigrant entrepreneurs, including the Business Immigrant Mentorship Program (BIMP). The BIMP offers a six month cohort program, where, in a classroom setting, immigrants are introduced to the basics of Canadian business culture. Due to its success, the program has since expanded throughout Canada.

Also, last year the Province of New Brunswick and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce launched The Hive/La Ruche Incubator Program, working specifically to support immigrant investors’ entry into the Canadian market. The Hive Incubator Program offers a full time office space to immigrant investors, where they are able to work and have access to essential business utilities. The idea behind the creation of this program is to remove immigrants from the isolation of their homes upon arrival, and help them incorporate at a higher rate into the business community.

These initiatives were profiled in Conference Board of Canada webinar. Conf-Board-Canada-Logo-0613a


In closing, the development of service infrastructure – including for potential business owners – can be a key tool in the attraction and retention of immigrants. New Brunswick continues to face challenges in terms of population growth, but it has been focused on creating solutions. Many communities in Ontario would benefit by doing the same?

Discussion questions:

  1. Should regions in rural Ontario also target immigrant attraction and retention as part of their population growth strategies? Why or why not?
  2. What examples in this article could realistically be adapted to communities in rural Ontario?

Sarah V Wayland

Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *