Ontario is growing fast. Between April and June, the province’s population rose by more than 113,000, an increase of 0.8 per cent from the first quarter that ranks as the largest percentage gain since 1988.
Beneath the surface, however, there is a grimmer trend: more people are fleeing Ontario for elsewhere in Canada.
During the second quarter, about 21,000 more people left Ontario for other provinces and territories than made the reverse move, the largest net outflow in six-plus decades of Statistics Canada records. This aspect of population change is known as interprovincial migration. Rather than luring in people from other parts of Canada, Ontario is growing quickly because it attracts so many people from outside the country.
On the other hand, Alberta registered its largest net inflow (close to 10,000 people) since the spring of 2014, before a collapse in oil prices led to a prolonged economic crisis, spurring many people to leave.
During the second quarter, around 12,700 people moved to Alberta from Ontario, the most since 1981. About half as many people made the reverse move. On net, Ontario lost roughly 6,300 people to Alberta – the largest outflow since 2006.
Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at Western University’s Ivey Business School and a senior director at the Smart Prosperity Institute, ties the exodus from Ontario to rapidly increasing home costs and a remote-work boom that’s opened up new possibilities.
“Four or five years ago, you could move to a Kitchener-Waterloo or a Woodstock and it was still relatively affordable,” he said. “But now those places have gone up considerably, as well.”
Mr. Moffatt’s analysis shows it’s not only an Ontario-to-Alberta migration wave. In recent years, a rising number of Ontarians are decamping for all corners of the country, but especially Atlantic Canada.
“I think it is a problem, because it’s a lot of young workers and a lot of young families,” he said. “Particularly when the people leaving are doctors and teachers and so on, those are the people that we need.”
“We need to build a lot of housing,” Mr. Moffatt continued. “But at the same time, the people who can build that housing are moving to other provinces because of cost-of-living concerns.”
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