How do we encourage people to stay in Saint John once we attract them here?
That's one of the objectives in a new population growth strategy unveiled at today's growth committee meeting.
Population growth manager David Dobbelsteyn says we need to change the conversation and give people some options.
"We know that Saint John is a very attractive place to people who've never been here, we have over 1.5 million tourists every year who come here because of the beauty that they see," says Dobbelsteyn. "We also want to encourage people to remain here."
The strategy outlines 30 to-do items to be accomplished over the next three years and focuses on getting new people to move here, improving the experience for newcomers and keeping the people we already have.
Some of the actions include organizing more hiring fairs for students, graduates, newcomers and international students, and forming a youth retention task force.
Dobbelsteyn says the growth plan aims to build on the good work already being done in the city — but warns we can't expect immediate results.
"Demographics is a long-term game, there's few shortcuts," he says. "The process of moving or immigrating to Saint John can take years and there's all sorts of variables that can speed up or decrease the time it takes for a new resident to come here, so the actions that we're taking now will start bearing fruit over the next few years."
Saint John lost nearly 2,500 people in the 2016 census, and in the last 45 years has seen a historical population decline of nearly 25 per cent.
The city's declining population means it will get $15 million less in provincial funding between 2018 and 2022, and while Dobbelsteyn says the strategy won't solve all the city's financial woes, it's an important piece of the puzzle.
"Quite frankly, our labour pool is not big enough to replace the amount of baby boomers that are retiring," he says. "There's going to be lots of jobs for people who have loved ones who are living out west ... but even with that, there's still going to be other jobs that need to be filled and that's why we need to bring in new people."
You can view the strategy online by clicking here.