Canadians Fleeing Ontario Is Accelerating, Alberta Becomes Top Destination

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.

10 Comments

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  • Bernard 1 month ago

    with baited breath until immigrants realize they’re being pulled into a Ponzi scheme and Ontario realizes it drove its job creators to BC.

    • Simon Chan 1 month ago

      “if you’re going to pay, it might as well be in a place that’s pretty.”

      Also BC corporate taxes are lower than most of the country, so why the heck not. Ultimately more money for my company to be out here than it was to move to Nova Scotia.

    • Ralph 1 month ago

      Would be great to express these figures as a % of population or as a % of employed workers.

      A slight change in the wind and ~11,000 (of 14 to 15 million in Ontario) head to Alberta where all of a sudden oil rig working is back en vogue (this following the 2020 slaughter of the oil field).

  • Ed Kolop 1 month ago

    Been considering leaving Ontario but I felt like I waited too long. Probably about a year ago I thought I should sell and bank some of the money, but now prices in other provinces are catching up. It’s a really dumb situation.

  • Ron Bruce 1 month ago

    Why move if you can’t find a comparable or better-paying job? Demographics need to be added to this story. Are we dealing with individuals with careers or retirees?
    Moving across the country isn’t free. And if you have engineering or technical College qualifications, keep in mind Southern Quebec and Ontario, the industrial heartland of Canada, contain Canada’s two largest cities, Montreal and Toronto. In this small region, 50 per cent of Canadians live, and 70 per cent of Canada’s manufactured goods are produced. Either side of Hwy 401 from Montreal to Windsor is the bulk of the industry competing on the global stage.

    • Immigrant 1 month ago

      Unless you have a secure job, don’t even think about Alberta. I had two secure jobs (one FT and one Pt) , lived in Alberta happily for 10 years then when I got married, my wife moved to Alberta and could not find a decent job, well moved to BC and she found the job easily. I don’t know…Alberta is great but the job market is too cyclical. Also, crime shot up in the last 5 years due to oil downturn.

    • Busrider 1 month ago

      Retirees, stereotypically, would be driving the moves to BC or Nova Scotia, but not Alberta. Alberta is attracting working families. And that should scare other provinces because that’s what contributes to truly long-lasting economic growth.

      As for your appeals for the youth to re-consider Southern Ontario, I can say from experience that the size of the population is not an indicator of the volume of the available jobs. A young graduate at the start of their careers is likely to face less competition for the same notional job in Alberta. Fighting uphill to land a job within reach of the GTA means they’re going to have less bargaining power when it comes to wages, and meanwhile higher housing costs. TLDR even for technical jobs the purchasing power of jobs in Ontario is totally shot, and these stats bear that out.

      • Credit Guy 1 month ago

        We also know from the data last quarter (I think I read it on here) that the people moving out to Nova Scotia are also young people, not retirees.

  • dave frazer 1 month ago

    If you like moskitos, and black flies . Nova Scotia is the place to go, even by the ocean., Went there from B.C in 2018 stayed 3 years and returned to B.C.
    B.C is fine, as long as you avoid the big cities.
    Nova Scotia Property is cheap, doctors non existant, dentists few, even medical clinics outside of Halifax are very rare., 15 % HST on everything,, Hydro price extremely high, Taxes and fees on used vehicles very high. A lot properties have of shallow wells , people run out of water in summer.

    I do not reccomend Nova Scotia at all.

  • Vishal 1 month ago

    I’m from Ontario and have family in NS. It’s really not very different. That includes the lack of doctors. BC is probably the only place where things are decent, but even now it’s beginning to erode since housing costs are so out of whack.

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