Being relatively close to Europe, New Brunswick was among the first places in North America to be explored and settled, starting with the French in the early 1600s, who eventually colonized most of the Maritimes and some of Maine as the colony of Acadia. The area was caught up in the global conflict between the British and French empires, and in 1755 became part of Nova Scotia, to be partitioned off in 1784 following an influx of refugees from the American Revolutionary War.
The province prospered in the early 1800s via logging, shipbuilding, and related activities. The population grew rapidly, reaching about a quarter million by mid-century. In 1785 Saint John became the first incorporated city in Canada, the same year the University of New Brunswick became one of the first universities in North America. New Brunswick was one of four, along with Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Province of Canada founding provinces of Canada.
After confederation, wooden shipbuilding and lumbering declined, while protectionist policy disrupted traditional economic patterns with New England. The mid-1900s found New Brunswick to be one of the poorest regions of Canada, but that has been mitigated somewhat by federal transfer payments and improved support for rural areas.
As of 2002 provincial gross domestic product were derived as follows: services 43%; construction, manufacturing, and utilities 24%; real estate rental 12%; wholesale & retail 11%; agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining, oil and gas extraction 5%; transportation & warehousing 5%.
According to the Constitution of Canada New Brunswick is the only bilingual province. About two thirds of the population declare themselves anglophones and a third francophones. One third of the overall population describe themselves as bilingual. Atypically for Canada, only about half of the population lives in urban areas, mostly in the capital Fredericton, Greater Moncton, and Greater Saint John.
Unlike the other Maritime provinces, New Brunswick's terrain is mostly forested uplands, with much of the land further from the coast, giving it a harsher climate. New Brunswick is 83% forested, and less densely-populated than the rest of the Maritimes.
Tourism acounts for about 9% of the labour force directly or indirectly. Popular destinations include Fundy National Park and the Hopewell Rocks, Kouchibouguac National Park, and Roosevelt Campobello International Park. In 2013, 64 cruise ships called at Port of Saint John carrying on average 2600 passengers each.
Indigenous peoples have been present in the area since about 7000 BC. At the time of European contact, inhabitants were the Mi'kmaq, the Maliseet, and the Passamaquoddy. Although these tribes did not leave a written record, their language is present in many placenames, such as Aroostook, Bouctouche, Petitcodiac, Quispamsis, and Shediac.
New Brunswick may have been part of Vinland, the area explored by Vikings, and the Bay of Fundy may have been visited in the early 1500s by Basque, Breton, and Norman fishermen.
The first documented European visits were by Jacques Cartier in 1534. A party led by Pierre du Gua de Monts and Samuel de Champlain visited the mouth of the Saint John River on the eponymous Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in 1604. Now Saint John, this was later the site of the first permanent European settlement in New Brunswick. French settlement extended up the river to the site of present-day Fredericton.
Other settlements in the southeast extended from Beaubassin, near the present-day border with Nova Scotia, and extending to Baie Verte, and up the Petitcodiac, Memramcook, and Shepody Rivers.
By the early 1700s the area that is now New Brunswick was part of the French colony of Acadia, which was in turn part of New France. Acadia comprised most of what is now the Maritimes, as well as parts of Québec and Maine. The peace and prosperity of the colony was ended by rivalry between Britain and France for control of territory in Europe and North America starting in the early 1700s. With the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, the part of Acadia today known as peninsular Nova Scotia became another British colony on the eastern seaboard. Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) remained French. The ownership of New Brunswick was disputed, with an informal border on the Isthmus of Chignecto.
To defend the area, the French built Fort Nashwaak, Fort Boishebert, Fort Menagoueche in Bay of Fundy, and in the southeast Fort Gaspareaux and Fort Beauséjour. The latter was captured by British and New England troops in 1755, followed soon after by the Expulsion of the Acadians.
Present-day New Brunswick became part of the colony of Nova Scotia. Hostilities ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and Acadians returning from exile discovered several thousand immigrants, mostly from New England, on their former lands. Some settled around Memramcook and along the Saint John River.
Settlement was initially slow. Pennsylvanian immigrants founded Moncton in 1766. An American settlement also developed at Saint John, and English settlers from Yorkshire arrived in the Sackville area.
After the American Revolution, about 10,000 loyalist refugees settled along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, commemorated in the province's motto, Spem reduxit ("hope restored"). In 1784 New Brunswick was partitioned from Nova Scotia, and that year saw its first elected assembly. The colony was named New Brunswick in honour of George III, King of Great Britain, King of Ireland, and prince-elector of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in what is now Germany. In 1785 Saint John became Canada's first incorporated city.
Although New Brunswick has limited arable land, the 1800s saw an age of prosperity based on wood export and shipbuilding, bolstered by the The Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 and demand from the American Civil War. St. Martins became the third most productive shipbuilding town in the Maritimes, producing over 500 vessels.
The first half of the 1800s saw large-scale immigration from Ireland and Scotland, with the population reaching 252,047 by 1861.
In 1848, responsible home government was granted and the 1850s saw the emergence of political parties largely organised along religious and ethnic lines.
The notion of unifying the separate colonies of British North America was discussed increasingly in the 1860s. Many felt that the American Civil war was the result of weak central government, and wished to avoid such violence and chaos. The 1864 Charlottetown Conference had been intended to discuss a Maritime Union, but concerns over possible conquest by the Americans coupled with a belief that Britain was unwilling to defend its colonies against American attack led to a request from the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) to expand the scope of the meeting. In 1866 the US cancelled the Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty leading to loss of trade with New England and prompting a desire to build trade within British North America, while Fenian raids increased support for union.
On 1 July 1867 New Brunswick entered the Canadian Confederation along with Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Province of Canada.
Confederation brought into existence the Intercolonial Railway in 1872, a consolidation of the existing Nova Scotia Railway, European and North American Railway, and Grand Trunk Railway. In 1879 John A. Macdonald's Conservatives enacted the National Policy which called for high tariffs and opposed free trade, disrupting the trading relationship between the Maritimes and New England. The economic situation was worsened by the decline of the wooden ship building industry. The railways and tariffs did foster the growth of new industries in the province such as textile manufacturing, iron mills, and sugar refineries, many of which eventually failed to compete with better capitalized industry in central Canada.
In 1937 New Brunswick had the highest infant mortality and illiteracy rates in Canada. At the end of the Great Depression the New Brunswick standard of living was much below the Canadian average. In 1940 the Rowell–Sirois Commission reported that federal government attempts to manage the depression illustrated grave flaws in the Canadian constitution. While the federal government had most of the revenue gathering powers, the provinces had many expenditure responsibilities such as healthcare, education, and welfare, which were becoming increasingly expensive. The Commission recommended the creation of equalization payments, implemented in 1957.
The Acadians in northern New Brunswick had long been geographically and linguistically isolated from the more numerous English speakers to the south. The population of French origin grew dramatically after Confederation, from about 16 per cent in 1871 to 34 per cent in 1931. Government services were often not available in French, and the infrastructure in Francophone areas was less developed than elsewhere. In 1960 Premier Louis Robichaud embarked on the New Brunswick Equal Opportunity program, in which education, rural road maintenance, and healthcare fell under the sole jurisdiction of a provincial government that insisted on equal coverage throughout the province, rather than the former county-based system.
The flag of New Brunswick, based on the coat of arms, was adopted in 1965. The conventional heraldic representations of a lion and a ship represent colonial ties with Europe, and the importance of shipping at the time the coat of arms was assigned.
Roughly square, New Brunswick is bordered on the north by Quebec, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Bay of Fundy, and on the west by the US state of Maine. The southeast corner of the province is connected to Nova Scotia at the isthmus of Chignecto.
All of the rivers of New Brunswick drain either into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to the east, or into the Bay of Fundy to the south. These watersheds include lands in Quebec and Maine.
New Brunswick is within the Appalachian Mountains and is divided into:
During the glacial period New Brunswick was covered by thick layers of ice. It cut U-shaped valleys in the Saint John and Nepisiguit River valleys, and pushed granite boulders from the Mirimachi highlands south and east, leaving them as erratics when the ice receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation, along with deposits such as the eskers between Woodstock and St George, today sources of sand and gravel. Outwash plains were formed as in the Magaguadavic River valley,
Most of New Brunswick is covered with Acadian forests apart from areas along the coast, farming, and urban areas.
New Brunswick's 107 municipalities cover 7000860000000000000♠8.6% of the province's land mass but are home to 7001653000000000000♠65.3% of its population. The three major urban areas are in the south of the province and are:
New Brunswick's climate is more severe that that of the other Maritime provinces, which are lower and have more shoreline along the moderating sea. It has a humid continental climate, with slightly milder winters on the Gulf of St. Lawrence coastline. Elevated parts of the far north of the province have a subarctic climate.
Bedrock types range from 1billion to 200 million years old. Much of the bedrock in the west and north derives from ocean deposits in the Ordovician, which were then subject to folding and igneous intrusion, and were eventually covered with lava during the Paleozoic, peaking during the Acadian orogeny.
During the Carboniferous era, about 340 million years ago, New Brunswick was in the Maritimes Basin, a sedimentary basin near the equator. Sediments, brought by rivers from surrounding highlands, accumulated there and after being compressed, producing the Albert oil shales of southern New Brunswick. Eventually sea water from the Panthalassic Ocean invaded the basin, forming the Windsor Sea. Once this receded, conglomerates, sandstones, and shales accumulated. The rust colour of these was caused by the oxidation of iron in the beds between wet and dry periods. Such late carboniferous rock formed the Hopewell Rocks, which have been shaped by the extreme tidal range of the Bay of Fundy.
In the early Triassic, as Pangea drifted north it was rent apart, forming the rift valley that is the Bay of Fundy. Magma pushed up through the cracks, forming basalt columns on Grand Manan.
New Brunswick is the eighth-most populous province in Canada with 751,171 residents as of the Canada 2011 Census.
The urban-rural split has been, since 1951, roughly even, whereas previously the province had been largely rural. Since 1971, the year in which the overall Canadian rural population fell below 25%, the province has been an outlier in this statistical category, along with the other Atlantic provinces.
In the 2001 census, the most commonly reported ethnicities were French Canadian or Acadian 31%, British Isles 60%, other European 7%, First Nations 3%, Asian Canadian 2%. Each person could choose more than one ethnicity.
According to the Canadian Constitution, both English and French are the official languages of New Brunswick, making it the only officially bilingual province. Anglophone New Brunswickers making up roughly two-thirds of the population, with about one-third being Francophone. Recently there has been growth in the numbers of people reporting themselves as bilingual, with 34% reporting that they speak both English and French. This reflects a trend across Canada.
In the 2011 census, 15 per cent of New Brunswickers declared themselves unaffiliated with any religion, while 84 per cent reported themselves as Christian, of which 52% were Roman Catholic, 8% Baptist, 8% United Church of Canada, and 7% Anglican.
As of October 2017 seasonally-adjusted employment is 73,400 for the goods-producing sector, and 280,900 for the services-producing sector.
Those in the goods producing industries are mostly employed in manufacturing or construction, while those in services work in social assistance, trades, and health care.
The US is the province's largest export market, accounting for 92% of a foreign trade valued in 2014 at almost $13 billion, with refined petroleum making up 63% of that, followed by seafood products, pulp, paper and sawmill products and non-metallic minerals (chiefly potash).
More than 13,000 New Brunswickers work in agriculture, shipping products worth over $1 billion, half of which is from crops, and half of that from potatoes, mostly in the Saint John River valley. McCain Foods is one of the world's largest manufacturers of frozen potato products. Other products include apples, cranberries, and maple syrup. New Brunswick was in 2015 the biggest producer of wild blueberries in Canada.
The value of the livestock sector is about a quarter of a billion dollars, nearly half of which is dairy. Other sectors include poultry, fur, and goats, sheep, and pigs.
The value of exports, mostly to the United States, was $1.6 billion in 2016. About half of that came from lobster. Other products include salmon, crab, and herring.
About 83% of New Brunswick is forested. Historically important, it accounted for more than 80% of exports in the mid 1800s. By the end of the 1800s the industry, and shipbuilding, were declining due to external economic factors. The 1920s saw the development of a pulp and paper industry. In the mid-1960s, forestry practices changed from the controlled harvests of a commodity to the cultivation of the forests.
The industry employs nearly 12,000, generating revenues around $437 million.
Mining was historically unimportant in the province, but since the 1950s has grown and in 2012 was an estimated $1.1 billion. Mines in New Brunswick produce lead, zinc, copper, and potash.
In 2015, spending on non-resident tourism in New Brunswick was $441 million, which provided $87 million in tax revenue.
See also: List of airports in New Brunswick
The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure maintains government facilities and the province's highway network and ferries. The Trans-Canada Highway is not under federal jurisdiction, and traverses the province from Edmundston following the Saint John River Valley, through Fredericton, Moncton, and on to Nova Scotia and PEI.
Via Rail's Ocean service, which connects Montreal to Halifax, is currently the oldest continuously operated passenger route North America, with stops from west to east at Campbellton, Charlo, Jacquet River, Petit Rocher, Bathurst, Miramichi, Rogersville, Moncton, and Sackville.
Canadian National Railway operates freight services along the same route, as well as a subdivision from Moncton to Sain John.
The New Brunswick Southern Railway, a division of J.D. Irving Limited, together with its sister company Eastern Maine Railway form a continuous 305 km (190 mi) main line connecting Saint John and Brownville Junction, Maine.
Publicly-owned NB Power operates 13 of New Brunswick's generating stations, deriving power from fuel oil and diesel (1497 MW), hydro (889 MW), nuclear (660 MW), and coal (467 MW). There were 30 active natural gas production sites in 2012.
Under Canadian federalism, power is divided between federal and provincial governments. Among areas under federal jurisdiction are citizenship, foreign affairs, national defence, fisheries, criminal law, indian policies, and many others. Provincial jurisdiction covers public lands, health, education, and local government, among other things. Jurisdiction is shared for immigration, pensions, agriculture, and welfare.
The parliamentary system of government is modelled on the British Westminster system. Forty-nine representatives, nearly always members of political parties, are elected to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. The head of government is the Premier of New Brunswick, normally the leader of the party or coalition with the most seats in the legislative assembly. Governance is handled by the executive council (cabinet), with about 32 ministries.
Ceremonial duties of the Monarchy in New Brunswick are mostly carried out by the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.
Elections are held at least every five years. The two main political parties are the New Brunswick Liberal Association and the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick.
The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick is the highest provincial court. It hears appeals from:
The system consists of eight Judicial Districts, loosely based on the counties. The Chief Justice of New Brunswick serves at the apex of this court structure.
Ninety-two per cent of the land in the province, inhabited by about 35% of the population, is under provincial administration and has no local, elected representation. The 51% of the province that is Crown land is administered by the Department of Energy and Resource Development.
Most of the province is administrated as a local service district (LSD), an unincorporated unit of local governance. As of 2017 there are 237 LSDs. Services, paid for by property taxes, include a variety of services such as fire protection, solid waste management, street lighting, and dog regulation. LSDs may elect advisory committees and work with the Department of Local Government to recommend how to spend locally-collected taxes.
In 2006 there were three rural communities. This is a relatively new entity, and to be created requires a population of 3,000 and a tax base of $200 million.
In 2006 there were 101 municipalities.
Regional Service Districts, which number 12, were introduced in 2013 to regulate regional planning and solid waste disposal, and provide a forum for discussion on a regional level of police and emergency services and regional sport, recreational and cultural facilities. The commissions are populated by the mayors of each municipality or rural community within a region.
Historically the province was divided into counties with elected governance, but this was abolished in 1966. These were subdivided into 152 parishes which also lost their political significance in 1966, but are still used as census subdivisions by Statistics Canada.
New Brunswick has the most poorly-performing economy of any Canadian province, with a per capita income of $28,000. The government has historically run at a large deficit. With about half of the population being rural, it is expensive for the government to provide education and health services, which account for 60 per cent of government expenditure. Thirty-six per cent of the provincial budget is covered by federal cash transfers.
The government has frequently attempted to create employment through subsidies, which has often failed to generate long-term economic prosperity and resulted in bad debt, examples of which include Bricklin, Atcon, and the Marriott call centre in Fredericton.
According to a 2014 study by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies the large public debt is a very serious problem. Government revenues are shrinking because of a decline in federal transfer payments. Though expenditures are down (through government pension reform and a reduction in the number of public employees), they have increased relative to GDP, necessitating further measures to reduce debt in the future.
In the 2014–15 fiscal year, provincial debt reached $12.2 billion or 37.7 per cent of nominal GDP, an increase over the $10.1 billion recorded in 2011–12. The debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach 41.9% in 2017–2018, compared to a ratio of 25% in 2007–2008.
Public education in the province is administered by the NB Department of Education. New Brunswick has a parallel system of Anglophone and Francophone public schools. There are also secular and religious private schools in the province, such as the Moncton Flight College.
The New Brunswick Community College system has campuses in all regions of the province.
The two comprehensive provincial universities are the University of New Brunswick and the Université de Moncton. These have extensive postgraduate programs and Law schools. Medical education programs have also been established at both the Université de Moncton and at UNBSJ in Saint John (affiliated with Université de Sherbrooke and Dalhousie University respectively).
Julia Catherine Beckwith born in Fredericton, was Canada's first published novelist. Charles G. D. Roberts was one of the first Canadians to achieve international fame. Antonine Maillet was the first non-European winner of France’s Prix Goncourt. Other modern writers include Alfred Bailey, Alden Nowlan, John Thompson, Douglas Lochhead, K. V. Johansen, David Adams Richards, Raymond Fraser, and France Daigle. A recent New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor, Herménégilde Chiasson, is a poet and playwrite.
The Fiddlehead, established in 1945 at UNB, is Canada’s oldest literary magazine.
Mount Allison University in Sackville began offering classes in 1854. The program came into its own under John A. Hammond, from 1893 to 1916. Alex Colville and Lawren Harris later studied and taught art there and both Christopher Pratt and Mary Pratt were trained at Mount Allison. The University’s art gallery – which opened in 1895 and is named for its patron, John Owens of Saint John – is Canada’s oldest. Modern New Brunswick artists include landscape painter Jack Humphrey, sculptor Claude Roussel, and Miller Brittain.
Music of New Brunswick includes artists such as Henry Burr, Roch Voisine, Lenny Breau, and Édith Butler. Symphony New Brunswick, based in Saint John, tours extensively in the province.
The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, tours nationally and internationally. Theatre New Brunswick, tours plays around the province. Canadian playwright Norm Foster saw his early works premiere at TNB. Other live theatre troops include the Théatre populaire d'Acadie in Caraquet, and Live Bait Theatre in Sackville. The refurbished Imperial and Capitol Theatres are found in Saint John and Moncton, respectively; the more modern Playhouse is located in Fredericton.
New Brunswick has four daily newspapers: the Times & Transcript, serving eastern New Brunswick, the Telegraph-Journal, based in Saint John and distributed province-wide, The Daily Gleaner, based in Fredericton, and L'Acadie Nouvelle, based in Caraquet. The three English-language dailies and the majority of the weeklies are owned and operated by Brunswick News, privately owned by J.K. Irving.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has Anglophone television and radio operations in Fredericton. Télévision de Radio-Canada is based in Moncton.
There are about 61 historic places in New Brunswick, including Kings Landing Historical Settlement and the Village Historique Acadien, and many New Brunswick museums.