Public facility closure and its impact on population mobility in New Brunswick

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New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training


In popular culture, one phrase is often used to manifest success: “If you build it, they will come.” While this idea exudes positivity and the power of hard work, we have to question its accuracy in terms of population research. In a province like New Brunswick, which is heavily invested in population growth and recruitment, does building public facilities and increasing public services actually prompt people to come and stay? And, conversely, does closing public facilities or reducing services prompt them to leave? Answering these questions could be key to population recruitment and retention strategies, which are crucial to the future success of our economy, labour market, and social culture. Across NB, public facilities like schools and hospitals provide valuable services to the population, taking on the role of “public assets.” In this report, we investigate the link between these public assets and population mobility in the province, asking whether opening and closing facilities, and changing service offerings, has any effect on New Brunswickers’ mobility decisions. More specifically, we look at the population mobility patterns in the neighbourhoods (i.e., “dissemination areas”1) near these facilities before and after such changes. To do so, this study uses the Citizen Database (Medicare Registry) as the primary dataset to track population movement and annual population counts in a dissemination area (DA) over the period 2002-2018. Data identifying active and closed schools in the province (2000-2018) is provided by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD), and data on the status of hospitals in NB is obtained from the province’s Annual Reports of Hospital Services (2003-2015). Distance to the nearest school (active/closed) and hospital (active/closed) is measured for each of the province’s DAs in the Citizen Database to estimate the impact of public facility closure on population change.