Canadians Are Still Leaving Major Cities In Big Numbers: BMO

Canadians fleeing major cities was supposed to be a temporary  trend, but it’s lasting a little longer. BMO Capital Markets broke down the 2022 net migration data. They found flight from the Big Three markets was still historically strong. The regions are still able to grow with immigration, helping to prop up demand. However, the churn of prime aged workers won’t last forever. Eventually immigrants start to flow to regions managing to win over existing residents.

Canada’s Big Three Cities Are Still Seeing Large Resident Outflows

Canada’s Big Three cities continued to see residents leave for other parts of the country. Toronto’s net outflow is the worst—by a country mile. But Vancouver and Montreal were still seeing elevated losses of residents. Most observers thought this to be a temporary trend related to the pandemic, but it hasn’t slowed much. 

“[The outflows are] a touch lower than the prior-year exodus thanks to less flow out of Montreal, but still a big number historically,” said Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at BMO.

Canadian Net Interprovincial Migration

The net migration of residents in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.  

Source: BMO Capital Markets; Statistics Canada. 

Residents Fleeing Are Younger Families Seeking Better Value 

The outflows are attributed to a sudden migration of young adults looking for space. It’s a trend they describe as inevitable, but accelerated by the pandemic.

“As has always been the case, these outflows largely reflect younger families moving out for more space, and COVID accelerated what was already coming because of Canada’s age structure,” said Kavcic. 

It’s worth noting “moving for more space,” is code for space one can afford. Flight from cities is typical in real estate bubbles, and there’s a long history of it occurring. Widespread adoption of work from home allows people to move much further out of the CMA, reflected in the data. 

Immigration Plugs Outflows, But They’ll Inevitably Flow To Where Young Adults Are

The net outflows aren’t even noticeable at the headline level, with immigration levels. Canada’s big three cities have long been immigration hubs, meaning growth has been easy. Since headline data only sees population change, few policymakers likely notice anything. The City’s coffers are growing, and aggregate output is still rising. 

“…international inward migration still dwarfs this outward movement among domestic residents. And there was a resurgence of nonpermanent resident inflows to the tune of 93k in these three cities—hence, still-tight rental markets,” said Kavcic. 

That isn’t to say there isn’t a problem. As we mention in interprovincial migration analysis, growth is good—but not all the same. The long-term issue of prime aged workers churning is something to consider. If residents see greater opportunity or a better quality of life, why wouldn’t immigrants move to the new regions providing a better value proposition? This is, after all, how new cities and economic hubs rise and old ones fall behind.



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  • Rick Abrams 1 year ago

    Los Angeles has already experienced what this article predicts, i.e. immigrants are by passing Los Angeles and moving directly to exurbs or at least to other cities like Denver. In fact, potential immigrants from Asia may be going directly to Canada and avoiding the US entirely

    On the upside for Los Angeles, our traffic congestion is now down to 6th. LA lost 200,000 ppl last year which reduced congestion, work from home is high, and baby boomers are retiring and not traveling. Babies do not drive. Thus, LA has seen a steeper drop in drivers than the mere loss of 200,000 family millennials would suggest at first glance.

    Mass transit is NOT a reason for less traffic congestion. Ridership on METRO is down since it is dirty, slow, and dangerous. LA has criminally insane roaming the streets murdering people and the new mayor refuses to speak against political violence

  • David "leaving Canada" Tiessen 1 year ago

    Its not just outflows from Canadian cities but a surge in emigration from Canada (39% for 2022) and mostly young working age (19-44)

    And I’m not surprised given The OECD predicts Canada will not only be the worst performing economy in the G20 from 2020-30, achieving at best a real per capita GDP growth of only 0.7 percent per annum, but they also place Canada dead last among the G20 advanced countries for 2030-2060!

    Canada’s future is leaving. The exodus of smart Canadian’s pursuing greater opportunities outside of Canada has begun because this is no country to “productively” grow “real” innovation, SME or a middle class. But if you want to fake it you can inflate “nominal” GDP merely by fiscal and monetary spending which is nothing more than stealing the wages from the future before they have even earned it.

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