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Q1 Net Inflow of People to BC from Other Provinces the Strongest in Two Decades

By Ken Peacock

BC’s comparatively healthy economic performance and attractive climate are luring people from other parts of Canada at a rate not seen in many years.  

Migration has well established seasonal patterns, so to compare the movement of people over time the data can be seasonally adjusted or one can simply compare first quarter data to first quarter results from prior years.  For simplicity, the graphs and analysis below adopt the latter approach and examine Q1 migration flows to BC for the years 1988 through 2015.

The first quarter gross inflow of people to BC is shown in the figure below (the outflow of people is discussed shortly).  In 2015 Q1 interprovincial in-migration jumped to its highest level (14,162) recorded during the first three months of any year since 1990.  Over the time period shown, first quarter in-migration has fluctuated between 8,500 and 14,709 (the latter in 1990). This year’s Q1 inflow was close to the 1990 figure and is the sixth largest first quarter inflow of people over the past four and half decades.

Of course people also move out of BC to other provinces.  Interprovincial outflows have been somewhat less volatile, particularly over the past decade when the number of people moving to other Canadian jurisdictions in the first quarter of each year remained close to 10,000.  With 10,356 people leaving BC, the first quarter of 2015 was consistent with this pattern.

 

Subtracting the outflow from the inflow of people leaves net-interprovincial migration. Because of the strong inflow of people, BC’s net gain from interprovincial migration in Q1 of this year was up sharply from the same period last year.  In fact, the boost from the inflow of people meant that Q1 of this year saw the largest Q1 net increase of people (3,806) from other parts of Canada in two decades.

To provide a little more detail of where people are coming from and going to, the graph below shows the outflow of people from BC (in green columns) and the inflow to BC (in blue columns) for the four provinces that account for most of BC’s interprovincial migration movements. Note that Quebec is also a significant element in BC’s migratory flows, but Manitoba’s outflow to BC is usually larger than Quebec’s.  Given its geographic proximity and at times booming economy, Alberta is the biggest factor in the fluctuations of BC’s interprovincial migration with BC. 

As with the other figures, this graph shows migratory flows only for the first quarter of each year.  Over the period Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario have almost always been a source of net positive in-migration to BC.  This year the net inflow from Ontario was 882, while from Saskatchewan and Manitoba it reached 557 and 534, respectively.  For Alberta there was a swing from BC losing 789 people (and even larger numbers in Q1 of the prior two years) to BC gaining 1,118 persons from our neighbouring province.  In light of lower oil prices and steep cuts in energy sector capital spending, BC will probably continue to see a positive flow of people from Alberta, which will add to the more consistent inflow of people from other parts of Canada.