Canadians Are Fleeing Ontario As Alberta and BC Manage To Attract More

Canadians are re-evaluating their housing situation, and it’s sending many to new provinces. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) data shows a significant interprovincial migration in Q3 2021. This is the flow of Canadians looking to improve their quality of life by moving to a new province. Since Ontario’s home prices have begun to surge, the province has been on the losing end of this trend. 

Net Interprovincial Migration

Today we’re going to be looking at the net interprovincial migration provinces received. As stated above, interprovincial migration is when someone leaves a province for another. The net is the balance of both incoming and outgoing migrants. Most analysts focus on the total population growth, but they’re missing out on a lot of great details.

Analysts and politicians tend to view people as interchangeable. Who cares if you lose one Millennial if you can import two new ones, right? This tends to miss whether or not people want to be in the province long term. A net increase of interprovincial migration tells us where established Canadians see opportunity. It also tells us where they didn’t see opportunity.

Just because a population is growing, doesn’t mean it’s where people see opportunity. Canada’s big immigration hubs tend to attract people based on its historic reputation. More recent data shows these hubs also happen to be the worst paying for recent immigrants. The disconnect can persist for a while, but people eventually realize why locals are moving.

Canadians Are Changing Provinces At One of The Fastest Rates Ever

Canadians are relocating to new provinces at one of the fastest rates ever. Interprovincial migration reached 94,248 people in Q3 2021, down 24% from the last quarter. It was 45% higher than the same quarter a year ago and the biggest Q3 since 2007. Also worth a mention — Q2 2021 was the biggest migration since the early 90s real estate bubble.

Canadian Interprovincial Migration

The total number of Canadians that moved to a new province per quarter.

Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.

BC and Alberta Are Winners of Net Interprovincial Migration

Where are people moving? To the coast and/or cheap land, it appears. BC saw a net gain of 5,777 people from interprovincial migration in Q3 2021, making it the top spot for Canadians. Alberta isn’t too far behind with a net gain of 4,489 people, bucking the trend of losses it has seen since 2015. Nova Scotia managed to come in third with a net gain of 2,496 people, continuing the inflow seen since 2020.

Canadian Net Interprovincial Migration

The net flow of people migrating in and out of each province.

Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.

Ontario Is The Biggest Loser of The Trend

One province’s gain is another’s loss — and Ontario was the biggest loser. Interprovincial migration for the province shows a net loss of 6,892 people in Q3 2021. This means almost 7,000 more people left for other provinces than arrived. Negative growth has been a persistent trend for the past few years, so it’s not just related to the pandemic. The past 3 quarters have seen the trend accelerate though, resembling outflows in the 80s.

Ontario Net Interprovincial Migration

The net flow of people migrating in and out of Ontario.

Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.

Losers rounding out the top three losses don’t seem like they would be in the same category as Ontario, but they are. Manitoba’s net loss of interprovincial migrants reached 3,877 people in Q3 2021. Saskatchewan wasn’t too far behind with a net loss of 3,367 people in the same quarter. Both provinces have generally seen a net loss for the past decade, with a few small exceptions.  

As fast as interprovincial migration has been, it’s unclear how this trend continues. On one hand, higher interest rates are primed to increase interest costs. Higher interest costs slow home sales — which is believed to be a big driver of the migration. This would slow migration.

Some analysts (such as Fitch Ratings) see home prices rising while rates rise and incomes fall. If this odd scenario were to occur, it could accelerate the flow out of provinces like Ontario and into places like BC. After all, if you’re going to pay an obscene amount to live in Canada, it might as well be where the best views are.

13 Comments

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  • Martin 1 year ago

    I’ve never understood why people like into Toronto while the pay is higher and the houses cheaper in Alberta.

    • D 1 year ago

      Cost of living is actually higher in Edmonton and Calgary compared to Toronto. They’re also in the middle of nowhere, most people don’t like that vibe.

      • Busrider 1 year ago

        If you think two cities each with 1million + people (one of which is a Provincial capital and the other is as close to the Rockies as a Toronto’s suburbs are from the urban core) are “in the middle of nowhere” you are exactly the type of person Martin was referring too; willing to accept Toronto purely for what seems like failure to see reason.

        • Zach 1 year ago

          I think you misunderstood. If you’re from Toronto the definition of “middle of nowhere” is “anywhere more than a 3 hour drive from Toronto”. By that definition New York City is the middle of nowhere. (I see not just a few Torontonians nodding their heads.)

          People really shouldn’t take offense when someone who lives somewhere else doesn’t want to move to where you happen to live. Most people stay put their entire lives.

  • Max 1 year ago

    If Ontario real estate prices are pushing people out, then why is everyone going to BC? Your analysis lacks internal consistency.

    Plus the graph shows it’s clearly a cyclical trend, nothing new.

    And 7,000 people is nothing. All of Ontario losing 20-30,000 people a year is a pittance when Toronto alone is importing 50-70,000 a year.

    Normally, I find the articles here a breath of fresh air (criticizing low interest rates, demand being the problem, not supply, and so on). But this article is not convincing.

    • RealTalk 1 year ago

      Bud, you realize that Toronto is part of Ontario?

      Meaning Ontario is losing ~100,000 people per year while gaining ~70,000, for an overall loss of about 30,000 people.

      That’s what net means. I imagine you probably just didn’t read carefully enough. Not to say it’s not cyclical, but to be clear Ontario is losing people. Torontonians will end up with nobody left to service their needs.

    • Colin McCann 1 year ago

      Max, think about it for a moment longer. If Ontario is reporting net out migration but Toronto is reporting net in migration (not sure it is on interprovincial basis, it might be doing so on an overall immigration perspective but that’s different) then that means the net flows in the rest of Ontario has to be that much worse. Basically everywhere else in Ontario other than the GTA is probably thinning out, and at an increasing rate.

      • Travis Hunter 1 year ago

        Toronto isn’t reporting net interregional migration, it’s reporting international migration.

        It’s literally the problem the writer mentions in the article that people focused on grifting international migration are focused on.

  • Heather 1 year ago

    I agree with Max. I don’t see why people would move from Ontario to BC when the housing is going to be as expensive or more so. Maybe get the equivalent paying job or not. Yes, weather in Lower Mainland could be better and better views, but I think there is an underlying reason that hasn’t been found. Weather-wise, BC is now the poster child for global warming. While the floods and heat are recent and maybe not showing up in the stats yet, it is definitely something to be considered.

    • Colin McCann 1 year ago

      The answer lies in the fact alluded to at the start where people are moving right now might not be where people are settling. I suspect what’s happening is people in Ontario are thinking of moving and decide to try to make it in BC. But it might only be a matter of time before a large chunk of them get costed out of BC as well are then they’re off somewhere else (my family is a prime example of that, we just moved to Alberta). That won’t show up in the data until later (although the jump in Alberta’s figures are probably a leading indicator of this)

      I also think you might be underestimating a) how much of the gap between BC real estate and Ontario real estate has recently closed so people might view them as equally costly but in BC the quality of life is better, and b) the rate of cost increases in the non-Toronto cities in Ontario compared to the non-Vancouver cities in BC. I imagine someone looking to vacate Toronto might first consider Kitchener or Hamilton or Ottawa, before realizing it’s not much more affordable.

    • Gen Y 1 year ago

      I personally moved to BC from ON this year. I can just speak for myself. Please go searching for a $600k 2bdrm condo in both GTA and Metro Vancouver, and compare the property tax, condo fee, etc. If you can get a same income job, you’ll surprisingly find Metro Vancouver is more affordable.

  • D 1 year ago

    Alberta and BC might be freer than Ontario but they’re both in Canada ruled by the same criminal elite clique. Already in Germany you have forced vaccine mandate for a virus where the survival rate is 99%. Absolutely crazy, it’s going to happen here. Why would anybody want to buy in a tyrannical society?

  • P 1 year ago

    How many people are fleeing Canada? I left for Costa Rica beginning of October and have met many of the same mindset. Singles, couples young and old, families with young children. It seems there are a lot of unhappy people in Canada… and it’s not the economy foremost on their minds!!!

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