Affordable provinces are in and expensive provinces are out for Canadian residents. We looked at Q1 2022 interprovincial migration data and found a big shift in moving patterns. Ontario, once considered Canada’s opportunity hub, is now seeing people leave in droves. Alberta and Nova Scotia, formerly known for losses, are now the top destinations for Canadians looking for a change.
Net Interprovincial Migration
Interprovincial migration is when a resident moves to a new province. Do you live in Nova Scotia but you’re originally from Ontario? You’re an interprovincial migrant. Net interprovincial migration is the balance of the flows in and out of provinces. This is an extremely important but undervalued indicator.
Long-term residents have insights on a province that can’t easily be quantified. Sure, maybe unemployment is low and wages are high, but it might not add up to a better quality of life. They have practical, on the ground experience with a region and how attractive it can be. If a lot more people leave than arrive, the province might be a poor value proposition.
Provinces with a positive flow aren’t just attracting people, but also retaining them. Keeping locals satisfied while poaching people from other regions is no easy task. Policymakers can learn what works and what doesn’t to continue to compete for people.
Now let’s look at the data before we go further.
Alberta, BC, and Nova Scotia Led For Net Inflows
First let’s start with the provinces doing things right. Alberta saw the largest net inflow, gaining 5,351 people in Q1 2022. This completely reverses the negative movements seen last year in the quarter. The next two to follow are BC with a net gain of 3,051 people (-67% compared to Q1 2021), and Nova Scotia with 2,419 (-10%) people.
All three of these provinces saw large net gains for interprovincial migrants. However, it’s worth noticing that Alberta is the only one of the three to see an acceleration for the trend. The other two provinces have made big gains, but they’re slowing.
Ontario Is Seeing Residents Flee To Other Parts of Canada Rapidly
The biggest loser might surprise anyone who’s not from the province — Ontario. The province saw a net outflow of 11,566 people in Q1 2022, nearly double (+96%) last year’s net loss. It was followed by Manitoba with an outflow of 2,229 (-7%) people, and Saskatchewan with 1,358 (-28%) people.
Once again, there’s an outlying acceleration trend. Ontario is the only of the three provinces to see losses accelerate in size. The other two provinces are seeing smaller outflows from last year.
Policymakers like to emphasize interprovincial losses don’t mean a shrinking population. That’s true, you can attract more immigrants to make up for the losses, and then some.
However, that point is only relevant from the perspective of tax revenues and GDP. Not even per capita GDP, but aggregate GDP that means very little to residents on its own. Immigrants tend to move to the Big Three hubs in Canada — Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
It’s a good deal for the region, but if it fails to live up to the hype it’s not great for the immigrant. This often results in regret, and in a best case scenario they figure out where locals are moving. At a certain point, word gets out and the previous hubs can be replaced as people move directly to the new region. The former hub then has to fight an uphill battle to regain its reputation.
It’s kind of like a car crash. People think the result is an unfortunate situation, and random circumstance. In reality, it’s usually a number of minor mistakes being ignored that stack up to a big problem that’s hard to reverse.