NBers third oldest in country
By Benjamin Shingler
Canadaeast News Service
Published Friday January 23rd, 2009
FREDERICTON – New Brunswick has one of the oldest populations in the country and the trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.
The province has the third oldest median age in the country, at 42, and more than 15 per cent of the population is 65 years and older. Only Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have an older average population.
“It's a trend we've been watching for a long time,” said Hubert Denis, an analyst with Statistics Canada.
Denis said two main factors contribute to the aging population in Atlantic Canada: a low fertility rate and the migration of young adults to western Canada.
For years, experts have cautioned that an aging population will mean a smaller pool of taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a growing number of pensions, health expenses and other costs incurred by older residents.
Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president at Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said signs of trouble have been apparent for more than a decade, and reversing the trend now will be near-impossible.
“You can literally go and count the two-year-olds, and there are not enough of them,” he said. “Nothing is going to solve the problem now it's too late.”
But Cirtwill said some things can be done by government to at least encourage further immigration of young workers, get those already in the province to join the workforce, and offer incentives for people to have more children.
While the trend is visible across most of the country, it's particularly acute in the east.
Nova Scotia, for example, has the highest proportion of seniors 15.4 per cent in the country and is the first province or territory to have more seniors than youth.
On average, the population is older east of Ontario and younger in the West and the North.
The population is younger in the three Prairie Provinces, notably as a result of higher fertility rates. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the provinces with the highest proportions of youth, at 19 per cent.
Because of the large inflows of young adults in the last decades, Alberta has both the lowest median age, 36, and the lowest proportion of seniors, 10.4 per cent, among provinces.
British Columbia is the only province west of Quebec to post a median age above the national level.
The province has had one of the lowest fertility rates in the country for decades while having the highest life expectancy.