Canada’s biggest bank found more people are trading life in the big city for Atlantic living. RBC economist Carrie Freestone crunched the numbers of interprovincial migration for Q2 2021. She found prime demographics are finding their way to Atlantic Canada. The migration was mostly from expensive provinces like Ontario and Alberta.
Atlantic Canada Just Saw A Record Interprovincial Migration
Canadians are heading out east in the largest volumes ever. The Atlantic provinces received a net gain of nearly 8,000 people in Q2 2021. The interprovincial migration was almost 4x larger than any previous quarter. RBC said it was a record gain for the region usually known for losing talent. Gains for the quarter were actually higher than 2019 and 2020 combined.
“Lower COVID spread in the Maritimes probably amplified the region’s appeal. But relatively affordable housing was likely an even bigger draw, especially as home prices skyrocketed in already-expensive parts of the country and more Canadians were able to work remotely,” said Freestone.
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Are The Big Winners
Atlantic Canada’s gains were mostly concentrated in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Nova Scotia managed to draw in 55% of the net gain of interprovincial migration, which was 4,678 people for Q2 2021. New Brunswick managed to attract a net gain of 2,145 in the same quarter. These were the second and third largest gains in the country.
The rest of Atlantic Canada saw smaller gains, but they were still fairly impressive. PEI (+869) and Newfoundland (+806) both managed substantial gains, not typically the case. Meanwhile, provinces like Ontario have been hemorrhaging Canadians.
Ontario and Alberta’s Loss Is Atlantic Canada’s Gain
Ontario and Alberta are where the bulk of Atlantic Canada’s gains came from, said the bank. Ontario reported a net loss of 11,857 people in Q2 2021, about 14x larger than the same quarter a year before. As stated last week, it was the largest net loss in the country.
The second-biggest loser for interprovincial migration last quarter was Alberta. The province saw a net loss of 5,447 people in Q2 2021, about 25% larger than the year before. It was a huge acceleration of losses, but might seem small in contrast to Ontario’s multiple.
Atlantic Canada Is Attracting A Prime Demographic of Migrants
Atlantic Canada isn’t just poaching the talent from Ontario and Alberta. It’s poaching the prime demographics from those regions as well. People between 18 and 44 account for 44% of the gains the Atlantic region saw in the quarter.
This is an ideal demographic for an economy since they’re early in their career and the age to start a family. Canada spends a lot of resources trying to attract this age of immigrants. Ontario and Alberta are losing them (and their future tax dollars) to the Atlantic.
“These provinces have long seen out-flows of young adults (often well-educated and highly-skilled). But this was not the case during the pandemic,” she said. People in this age bracket are staying put, and folks from other provinces are joining them.
Housing Affordability Is The Big Draw To Atlantic Canada
The bank didn’t mince words as to what’s attracting these young adults to the Atlantic — quality of life. Remote work has enabled more people to move their big city paycheques to the coast. With much cheaper housing, the difference can be spent on lifestyle or investments. Sure, Toronto is nice, but would you rather retire years earlier?
“With housing affordability worsening in major urban markets in Central Canada, this may mark the beginning of a trend: young talent moving east for an improved quality of life,” said the economist.
Even with cities like Halifax seeing home prices soar, it’s still much cheaper in the Atlantic. The bank estimates a home in the city, the most expensive in the region, is still 60% cheaper than Toronto. It might be the difference between buying a home, or chasing the dream of winning the lottery in Toronto.
The boom has some risks though. In a post-pandemic world, it isn’t clear if this trend will stick. Also, as BMO previously mentioned, rising prices in secondary cities are a risk in itself. As the gap between Toronto closes, it makes less sense to move. This can kill fast-growing regions that see home prices grow faster than the economy.
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