New Brunswick is one of three provinces collectively known as the "Maritimes." Joined to Nova Scotia by the narrow Chignecto Isthmus and separated from Prince Edward Island by the Northumberland Strait, New Brunswick forms the land bridge linking this region to continental North America. It is bounded in the north by Quebec and in the west by the US (Maine). In 1784, the British divided Nova Scotia at the Chignecto Isthmus, naming the west and north portion New Brunswick after the German duchy of Brunswick-Lunenburg. New Brunswick is now the only officially bilingual province in Canada.
New Brunswick is part of the Appalachian region, one of Canada’s seven physiographic regions. The province’s principal geographic divisions are the watershed of the Bay of Fundy, centering on the Saint John River valley, and the north and east shores. The residents of the north and east shores live in coastal fishing villages and interior lumbering settlements along rivers. They are separated physically from the valley communities by uplands and belts of forest. They are also separated culturally by their predominantly French language and Catholic religion.
New Brunswick topography is characterized by northern uplands rising to 820 m and mountainous in appearance. There are gently rolling hills in the central and eastern parts of the province. Sharp hills on the southern coast slope down to tidal marshes and a lowland plain in the southeast.
The soils tend to be thin and acidic over the uplands, deeper but frequently poorly drained and acidic in the centre and west, and rocky in portions of the south. About 5 per cent of the province is farmland. Most of the remainder of the province, some 83 per cent, is under forest cover. Almost all of the forest cover is considered suitable for forestry.
No part of New Brunswick is more than 180 km from the ocean. The ocean was the principal means of early transportation. An extensive river system brought access well into the interior of the province, permitting early development of the and dictating patterns of settlement. The largest cities are located on the rivers, as are most of the towns and villages. Lakes are common in the south, with the largest, Grand Lake, more than 30 km in length. (See also Geography of New Brunswick.)
The two largest cities in New Brunswick are Moncton and Saint John. Moncton has long been a headquarters for transportation and distribution facilities. It is also the traditional headquarters for Acadian media and financial institutions; and, in 1963, became the site of the provincial francophone university, Université de Moncton.
As a leading centre of British North America in the mid-19th century, Saint John owes its importance to the timber trade (made accessible by its river) and to its ice-free port, which supplied the estuary and dominated shipping and shipbuilding on the Bay of Fundy. Saint John’s current urban status is largely industrial, based on an oil refinery, pulp and papermills, a nuclear power plant, dry dock facilities and a major container port.
The trend to urbanization changed New Brunswick from more than two-thirds rural before 1941 to predominantly urban by 1971. Then came a reversal as the officially designated urban population dropped from 52 per cent in 1976 to 48 per cent in 1991, owing to a resumption of migration from the region as well as a residential move to the suburbs, which had been made attractive by improved services, cheaper land and lower taxes. In 2016, the population was 747,101, 49 per cent of which was urban.
Traditionally, young New Brunswickers have migrated to other provinces to find employment. This trend has persisted over the years. In 2013, Statistics Canada noted many of those who migrate settle permanently in their new province of choice.
In 2016, the sectors employing the most people were health care and social assistance, retail, and public administration. Historically, New Brunswick has had a higher than national average unemployment rate. In 2016, the unemployment rate was 11.2 per cent, making it the third highest in the country after Nunavut and Prince Edward Island.
Language and Ethnicity
The population of French origin grew dramatically after Confederation, from about 16 per cent in 1871 to 24 per cent in 1901 and 34 per cent in 1931. Other ethnic groups in 1871 included English (29 per cent), Irish (35 per cent) and Scots (14 per cent).
In 2016, the most commonly reported ethnic origins in New Brunswick were Canadian, English and French. Just over 3 per cent of the province’s population belongs to a visible minority group, compared to just over 22 per cent of the Canadian population, while 4 per cent are Indigenous (including First Nations, Métis and Inuit). At about 65 per cent, the majority of New Brunswickers reported English as their mother tongue in 2016, followed by 32 per cent who reported French.
In 2011, 84 per cent of New Brunswick’s population identified as Christian, while 15 per cent reported no religious affiliation.
The first settlers of New Brunswick were the Mi’kmaq, whose communities spread from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to the south coast of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Maliseet along the Saint John River valley and Passamaquoddy Bay along the St Croix River. From the early 16th century, they developed contacts with the Europeans and established a trade, which made them dependent on European technologies and victims of European diseases. The Mi’kmaq had long followed a pattern of seasonal migration from hunting grounds in the wooded uplands in winter to gatherings on the shore in summer for shellfishing and social congress.
When the French attempted settlement, first at the mouth of the St Croix River in 1604 and later at Port-Royal, they were welcomed by the Mi’kmaq, who taught them how to survive. After the French had shifted their interest to Quebec, Indigenous peoples helped a few young men who remained, including Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, to establish a fur trade on the Saint John River.
The death of Isaac de Razilly in 1635, leader of a revived settlement at Port-Royal, occasioned a feudalistic struggle over trade and territory between La Tour, Charles de Menou D’Aulnay and Nicolas Denys. On d'Aulnay's death in 1650, La Tour regained control of the Saint John and Denys recovered a fishing and trading post at Miscou Harbour and built another at Nepisiguit (Bathurst).
After an extensive career in trade and fisheries along the coast of Acadia, Denys returned to Nepisiguit in 1668 to write a historically important description of Acadia before returning to France in 1671 to have the volume published. The French launched raids against New England from the Saint John River valley in the 1690s, helping to create a deep-seated and persistent hostility to the French presence in Acadia.
Meanwhile the tiny settlement begun at Port-Royal flourished, spreading around the Bay of Fundy to include the Chignecto Isthmus and Shepody on the north shore. The Acadians developed a unique society characterized by dyking technology which enabled them to farm the marshes left by the Bay of Fundy's tides. Their society was also characterized by neglect from the French authorities, and this encouraged the development of a tightly knit and independent community.
Caught in an imperial struggle between British and French, most were expelled by the British in 1755 or later and scattered throughout the Thirteen Colonies or were returned to France. Those who returned after the Treaty of Paris (1763), found their lands occupied by several thousand immigrants, largely from New England. Some received grants of land in the Memramcook area, some squatted along the Saint John River and some found employment with the Robin brothers of Jersey in the Channel Islands, who in 1764 began to establish fishing stations along the coast from Gaspé to Cape Breton Island.
After the American Revolution, approximately 14,000 Loyalist refugees came to the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, established the city of Saint John, and settled the Saint John and St Croix River valleys. A few penetrated other parts of the province. Hungry for jobs and conscious of their isolation from Halifax, they petitioned for separate colonial status, which was granted in 1784.
Napoleon's continental blockade, which in 1807 cut Britain off from traditional timber supplies from the Baltic region, led to a deliberate effort through protective timber tariffs to foster the colonial industry as a dependable source. Blessed with rivers, which made rich stands of spruce and pine accessible, New Brunswick's squared-timber trade boomed for half a century. Timber became a source of development leading to new settlement and giving its own peculiar cast to the economy, and to politics and society. Population grew from perhaps 25,000 to almost 200,000 by mid-century.
Booms and slumps tended to bankrupt settlers who relied on timber, and many settlers were reduced to wage labour status, dependent on a few influential entrepreneurs in each region. Associated with the timber industry was wooden shipbuilding, for which production sites dotted the coast and rivers of the province, and by mid-century turned out over 100 vessels a year, both for export and for the use of the merchants of Saint John.
New Brunswick industries, helped by the Crimean War and American Civil War, and by a reciprocity treaty with the US in natural products, weathered the crisis of the British abandonment of the timber tariffs and Navigation Acts in the late 1840s. The conjunction of blows which afflicted New Brunswick's economy after Confederation, of which the National Policy of protective tariffs was but one, proved more permanently damaging. The reciprocity treaty was cancelled, timber resources became less merchantable and the wooden vessels lost in their competition with steam-driven, iron-hulled ships. New Brunswickers by the thousand left the declining ports and timber towns to find employment in the US. (See also New Brunswick and Confederation.)
Some New Brunswick entrepreneurs were quick to make the transition to a national continental economy. Confederation brought the Intercolonial Railway to New Brunswick by 1876 and the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Saint John in 1889. Merchants, lumbermen and shipbuilders tended to transfer their capital to iron foundries, textile mills, sugar refineries and other secondary industries whose growth was fostered by the tariff. Eventually many of the new industries, scattered through the province, were taken over by the larger and better capitalized industries of central Canada. The classic pattern emerged of takeover, failure to modernize, closure and the exploitation of the market from expanding plants in central Canada.
The postwar recession of the 1920s saw the continued decline of traditional industries, and the virtual collapse of a manufacturing sector further undercut by adverse federal policies in tariffs and transportation. Investigation of Maritime problems by a federal royal commission and attempted remedial action were largely negated as New Brunswick plunged with the rest of the world into the Depression of the 1930s. Several decades of economic stagnation reduced New Brunswick to a standard of living much lower than the national average. National policies served to increase the disparity, as the tariff created and maintained a manufacturing sector in central Canada. Meanwhile, Maritime governments lacked the money to maintain essential services.
By 1940, New Brunswick's expenditures on education and health services were slightly over half of the national average; its illiteracy and infant mortality rates were the highest in the country. Despite the recognition of the Rowell-Sirois Report on Dominion-Provincial Relations (1940) stating the need for a fairer distribution of the tax revenues from a national economy, the adjustment grants, which the commissioners recommended for the poorer provinces, were not adopted until the early 1960s.
The nature of New Brunswick's disparity was two-fold: the extreme disparity of standards of living compared with other provinces; and the internal disparity between the urban sections of the largely English south and the rural sections of the largely French north. The attack on both proceeded simultaneously.
Within the province, the government moved behind a slogan of "equal opportunity " to provide greater equality in services. Acting on the recommendations of the 1963 Byrne Commission, the Robichaud administration, led by the first Acadian premier, proceeded with more than 125 pieces of legislation to radically alter the division in responsibilities between provincial and county or municipal units of government. Acting on the principle that the provincial government should maintain services to people, the government took responsibility for educational, medical, judicial and social assistance services. To the municipalities it gave services such as water, sewer, fire protection and local police services. Taxes were to be assessed province-wide on the actual market value of property.
Along with the rationalization in services went a determined effort at economic development. The optimism of the 1960s persuaded both federal and provincial governments that the chronic disparity of province and region could be overcome through industrialization. Federal-provincial attempts at rural development, government investments in electricity generation, mining, forestry, fishery and secondary manufacturing, the building of major highways through the north of the province, and the use of transportation subsidies to help New Brunswick products reach national markets were all part of a federal-provincial effort to push the province's standard of living closer to the national average.
Since the early 19th century, timber has dominated the New Brunswick economy. The province, like the Maritime region as a whole, underwent severe economic dislocation in the latter half of the 19th century as a declining shipbuilding industry, stagnant timber markets and increased tariffs struck hard. New railways and the rise of manufacturing towns failed to compensate for losses in the older industries.
In the 1920s industrial towns declined, as their industries were closed down after takeovers by central Canadian competitors, or were adversely affected by national policies and hindered from competing in national markets.
By the 1930s pulp and paper mills had surpassed lumber in importance and their rise encouraged the development of hydroelectricity. Nevertheless, farm and fishing activity declined and emigration rates remained high in succeeding decades. Government campaigns for economic development in the 1960s and early 1970s, although not always successful, meant the expansion of forest industries, the advent of a new and important mining industry, modernization of fisheries and farming, increased manufacturing based largely on local resources and the cultivation of tourism.
Potatoes, especially seed potatoes, are the province's chief agricultural export. In 2012, they accounted for about 44 per cent ($110 million) of New Brunswick’s total crop value. Production is concentrated along the upper Saint John River valley.
Following potatoes, the most important crops are fruits and berries, and floriculture (including nursery crops and sod).
Dairy production is most important in Kings, Westmorland and York counties, where farmers supply the three major cities. Dairy and poultry production were of near-equal importance in 2012, each accounting for about 40 per cent ($101 million) of the total value of livestock production.
Mining was traditionally of scant importance in New Brunswick. The gypsum, granite and grindstones included among 19th-century exports were largely of local significance. Although coal led to a rapid development of the Grand Lake region, especially with the arrival of the railway in 1903, this area never yielded enough to make the province self-sufficient. With coal's loss of status to oil and hydroelectricity, coal mining came to a virtual halt by the mid-1960s.
The energy crises of the early and mid-1970s led to coal's recovery through strip-mining, but by then coal was upstaged by mineral developments in the northeast. The discoveries of extensive base metal reserves in the Bathurst-Miramichi region in the 1950s raised the mining industry to a position of major importance.
Today, the major minerals mined are zinc, silver and lead. Among non-metallic minerals, peat, stone and sulfur are of greatest importance. When combined, the value of metallic and non-metallic minerals in the province was an estimated $1.1 billion in 2012.
New Brunswick was better off than its Maritime and New England neighbours at the end of the cheap oil era signalled by the OPEC cartel and the shortages of 1973–74 and 1979–80. The publicly-owned New Brunswick Electric Power Commission (1920) had built, with federal assistance, a major dam on the Saint John River near Fredericton, which had more than doubled the province's electrical capacity from that source.
In 1970, the New Brunswick government had already committed the province to nuclear energy through the construction of a Candu reactor at Point Lepreau. By 1985, the proliferation of electrical generation capacity combined with a federal program to convert homes from oil to electrical heating resulted in a significant decline in the demand for oil and natural gas.
In 2011, petroleum accounted for about 54 per cent of the province’s energy consumption, electricity about 31 per cent and natural gas, 13 per cent. Of the electricity produced in 2012, 64 per cent came from thermal plants and 29 per cent from hydropower. The province’s primary energy provider is NB Power.
New Brunswick has been producing natural gas since 1909, when a well at Stoney Creek began production. In 2012, there were 30 producing natural gas wells in the province. (See also Fracking.)
The forest, which covers about 83 per cent of the province, has traditionally dominated the New Brunswick economy. Accessible rivers and a British preferential tariff led to the rapid development of the timber industry early in the 19th century as white pine was slashed for British marine and domestic needs. Closely integrated with the timber trade was a widely diffused shipbuilding industry which both absorbed forest products and facilitated their access to markets.
In the mid-19th century, forest products accounted for more than 80 per cent of the province's exports. The timber trade had declined by the end of the century and the province lost markets from a shrinking West Indian economy, new American tariffs and fresh competition from west coast timber. These problems were only partially alleviated by the rise of a vigorous pulp and paper industry in the 1920s.
Pulp mills demanding large capital outlays and a large work force have been major factors in the urban development of the province. For example, pulp mills controlled by the Irving Group interests at or near Saint John produce sulphate pulp, newsprint, tissue and materials for corrugated cardboard cartons. Despite its traditional importance, declines in the industry have shifted the industry’s prominence. (See also Pulp and Paper Industry.)
In 2012, New Brunswick’s forestry industry employed 11,900 people, and generated revenues of about $437 million.
New Brunswick has both freshwater and sea fisheries, though the sea fishery is of far greater significance. For example, in 2012, the province’s sea landings (i.e., fish brought ashore) were valued at $200 million, ranking it third among the Atlantic coast fisheries. By comparison, the value of freshwater fish landings in the same year was $522,000. The most valuable catch is lobster, which accounted for over half (53 per cent) of the total landed value of the province’s sea fishery in 2012. Other important species in terms of landed values are Queen crab, shrimp and herring. The main fishing areas are the Gulf of St Lawrence, Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy. (See also History of Commercial Fisheries.)
Manufacturing industries are largely based on the processing of primary products produced locally. For New Brunswick, this in large part means forestry and food products (what with the abundance of potatoes, there are McCain factories in Florenceville and Grand Falls). These goods (wood and food) generally rank the highest in terms of sales. The Irving oil refinery in Saint John is another large producer.
In 2011, 32,700 people worked in the tourism industry, accounting for about eight per cent of the labour force. Visitors are drawn to such attractions as Saint John's reversing falls, the potted-plant-shaped rocks on Albert County's Fundy coast (see The Rocks Provincial Park), the tidal bore of the Bay of Fundy, rugged forest, coastal scenery and recreations of historical communities: For example, a Loyalist settlement, Kings Landing near Fredericton and the Acadian Historical Village at Caraquet. There are also more than 60 museums, restored fortifications and other sites of historic interest around the province, including a new archaeological site at Mud Lake Stream.
Most financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies are local branches of central Canadian firms. Among the few exceptions are local credit unions and the Assomption Vie, a largely Acadian institution with its headquarters at Moncton.
Far from central markets, New Brunswickers have traditionally shown great concern about transportation and its link to economic development. They have protested disproportionately high railway freight-rate increases, loss of regional autonomy in the federally owned Intercolonial Railway and a failure to channel Canada's winter trade through Canadian ports. In 1927, their region won a partial victory in the Maritime Freight Rates Act, which created statutory reductions in freight rates.
In 1969, the Federal/Provincial Committee on Atlantic Region Transportation was created to administer transportation subsidies in support of industrial development. By then transportation had become much more complex as highway trucking surpassed the railways in the carriage of freight. Airplanes and buses carried the bulk of public passengers. The advent of containerized traffic, for which the ice-free facilities of the port of Saint John were particularly well suited, encouraged a renewed struggle for enhanced status as a national port.
Currently, New Brunswick has two major railway systems. The New Brunswick Southern Railway took over most of the Canadian Pacific Rail lines in the province when CP Rail pulled out in 1994. New Brunswick Southern Railway is a short line whose eastern terminus is Saint John. The second major railway system is CN, whose regional headquarters is Moncton and main terminus is Halifax. VIA Rail offers passenger service from Halifax through Moncton north to Campbellton and then on to central Canada.
There are four major airports in the province in Moncton, Saint John, Bathurst and Fredericton. Maritime Bus provides intercity bus service within the province with connections throughout the Maritimes and into Quebec. There are also a number of smaller scheduled passenger and charter bus companies operating throughout the province. Municipally-owned urban transit is maintained in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton.
Saint John is the major port, with year-round service for containerized and bulk traffic. Its busy season has traditionally been the winter, when the St Lawrence River is frozen over. It is served by numerous container shipping lines with access to over 350 ports in the world and annually handles 31 million metric tonnes of cargo. Nine other ports dot the New Brunswick shoreline, of which Newcastle is an outlet for fish and timber exports, and Belledune the major outlet for the base metal industry.
There are 49 seats in New Brunswick’s provincial government. Each seat is held by a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) elected by eligible voters in their electoral district. According to the Legislative Assembly Act, provincial elections are to be held on the third Monday of October, every four years. Sometimes, should the party in power see it as advantageous, an election may be called before this date. Elections may also occur before four years have passed in cases where the government no longer has the confidence of the Legislative Assembly (see Minority Government).
As with the other provinces, New Brunswick uses a first past the post electoral system, meaning the candidate with the most votes in each electoral district wins. The party with the most seats forms the government, and the leader of this party becomes premier. Technically, as the Queen’s representative, the lieutenant-governor holds the highest provincial office, though in reality this role is largely symbolic. (See also Premiers of New Brunswick: Table; Lieutenant-Governors of New Brunswick: Table.)
The premier typically appoints members of the Cabinet from among the MLAs also belonging to the party in power. Cabinet members are referred to as ministers and oversee specific portfolios. Typical portfolios include finance, health and education. (See also Politics in New Brunswick.)
Although New Brunswick was the first province to establish a department of health, economic difficulties resulted in its services lagging far behind most other provinces until the late 1960s.
Today the province is divided into two major regional health corporations, Horizon Health Network, serving the areas of Miramichi, Upper River Valley, Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton. Vitalité Health Network is a francophone network serving the largely French areas of the province, comprised of the Nothwest region, Restigouche, Acadie-Bathurst, and Beauséjour with major regional hospitals at Moncton, Bathurst, Campbellton and Edmundston. Psychiatric care is offered in the home, in chronic care hospitals at Saint John and Campbellton, and in units of the regional hospitals. Hospital and other medical services are provided without premiums under the nationally integrated programs. Small user fees were introduced in 1983.
A provincial plan aids people over 65 in the payment of prescription drugs. Public health services include nursing, inspection, control of communicable diseases, maternal and child health care, home care, nutrition, tuberculosis control and the operation of a home dialysis program.
The educational institutions of Loyalist New Brunswick began with a strong Anglican bias which stimulated the proliferation of other denominational schools and colleges. The Common Schools Act of 1871, which established free public schools, virtually excluded the Catholics. A later compromise permitted teaching by members of religious orders and religious instruction after school hours. Education, however, remained a flash point of tension among religious and language groups in the province. For example, it was not until 1963 the Université de Moncton was created, giving Acadians and other francophone New Brunswickers access to a modern, fully funded French-language university during the drastic changes that took place under the first Acadian premier, Louis Robichaud.
This and other educational reforms of the 1960s relieved municipalities of their responsibilities for education and sought full educational services for both French and English in their own languages. Full curriculum and services are offered in both official languages through two parallel systems, from k to 12. Financing is provided by the province. In 1996, school boards were abolished, and were replaced with a parent-driven structure at the school, district and provincial levels. Seven school districts remain, divided linguistically, and each linguistic grouping is responsible for its own curriculum: there are three francophone districts (Northeast, Northwest and South) and four Anglophone districts (North, South, East and West). Each district is divided further into sub-districts (27 in the francophone districts, 41 in the anglophone districts), and is led by elected District Education Councils (DEC). All of the schools in New Brunswick have to report to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour is responsible for community colleges, adult continuing education programs and the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. Post-secondary institutions include the New Brunswick Community College, the University of New Brunswick, Saint Thomas University, Mount Allison University and the Université de Moncton.
Bliss Carman, Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, A.G. Bailey, Desmond Pacey, W.S. MacNutt, Alden Nowlan and Antonine Maillet are a few of the New Brunswick literary and historical figures of international repute. Prominent artists include John Hammond, Miller Brittain, Alex Colville, Jack Humphrey and Lawren P. Harris .
From the 1920s private patrons such as J.C. Webster of Shediac and Lord Beaverbrook (formerly Max Aitken of Newcastle) helped develop institutional bases for creativity and for popular education through museums, art galleries, playhouses and universities.
In recent decades the universities have been centres of literary and artistic endeavour. Mount Allison is famous for its artists and musicians. The University of New Brunswick has developed journals of national stature, such as the literary Fiddlehead and the historical Acadiensis. The Université de Moncton has become a centre of research in Acadian studies. Acadian choirs have gained an international reputation for excellence.
Theatre New Brunswick, a professional theatre company based in Fredericton, offers live theatre in the towns and cities of the province. There are two professional French-language theatre companies, Théâtre Populaire d'Acadie (Caraquet) and Théâtre l'Escaouette ( Moncton).
There are also two dance companies, DancEast and DansEncorps, and 14 public art galleries. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the province's largest, features exhibitions of New Brunswick, Canadian, and international historical and contemporary art.
Daily newspapers include the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, the Moncton Times-Transcript (all owned by the Irving interests) and L'Acadie Nouvelle. Until its bankruptcy, the French-language L'Evangeline was the daily voice of Acadians in the province.
New Brunswick is home to 61 National Historic Sites. The New Brunswick Museum (and its predecessor) in Saint John has been an exhibitor of natural and human history for over 150 years. The Musée Acadien de Université de Moncton owns a collection of over 30,000 objects related to the Acadians of the Maritime Provinces. The Legislative Library in the capital contains an excellent collection of materials, books, pamphlets and government publications.
Kings Landing, the restoration of a Loyalist settlement up the river from Fredericton, is a spectacular attempt to bring history alive to visitors through the activities of a 19th-century village. Acadian Historical Village at Caraquet represents the history of the survival of the Acadians after the event known as La Déportation (1780–1890). Fort Beauséjour, a national historic park located near the Nova Scotia border (near Sackville), is a restoration of a significant French fort of the mid-18th century.
Roosevelt Summer Home and Park on Campobello Island, run by a joint Canadian-American Commission, includes the Franklin D. Roosevelt summer estate and neighbouring houses, and offers accommodation for small conferences. Recently a second international park has been designated on Saint Croix Island, the site of Champlain's first settlement in North America.