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More Ontarians are leaving for Alberta, StatCan data show

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27  -  Bloor-Yonge TTC subway station, one of Torontos most popular transit hubs, is peppered with advertisements promoting jobs and housing in Alberta, the tagline is Alberta is Calling in Toronto. September 27, 2022.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Statistics Canada data released on Wednesday showed that nearly 10,000 people moved from other provinces to Alberta in the second quarter of the year, the largest net gain for the province since 2014. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Alberta is calling – and Canadians in other provinces appear to be listening.

Statistics Canada data released on Wednesday showed that nearly 10,000 people moved from other provinces to Alberta in the second quarter of the year, the largest net gain for the province since 2014 and more than double from the same period last year.

Ontario was the biggest driver of Alberta's net population gain, with 6,281 people moving to the western province in the second quarter. That's up from the same quarter last year, when Alberta had a net gain of 281 people moving from Ontario.

At the same time, Ontario recorded the largest outflow of people since Statistics Canada started tracking the data. While about 28,000 people moved into Ontario from other provinces, 49,000 moved out, resulting in a net loss of 21,000 people leaving the province for other regions of the country.

While migration patterns to Alberta tend to be in line with oil prices, Mike Moffatt, senior director at the Smart Prosperity Institute, says the exodus from Ontario comes down to housing affordability.

"We're seeing now, particularly with the availability of work from home, that people are moving to the places with the least expensive real estate, which tend to be Atlantic Canada and Alberta," Moffatt said in an interview.

"Across Canada, there's a fairly strong labour market, so we do see people switching employers and be willing to move to new places that are more affordable."

Alberta is not the only province that saw more people across Canada moving in. Nova Scotia recorded a net increase in the second quarter of 2022 of more than 6,100 people from other provinces (compared to 4,200 in the same quarter in 2021), while New Brunswick saw an increase of more than 4,200 (up from 2,300 in 2021). Again, Ontarians made up the bulk of the net population gains for the two Atlantic provinces, with a net gain of about 4,800 people moving from Ontario to Nova Scotia, and about 3,600 people moving from Ontario to New Brunswick.

Ontario's housing market has become increasingly unaffordable in recent years, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). While prices have dropped amid rising interest rates, they are still out of reach for most. An RBC report released on Thursday found that it would take up 83 per cent of the average household income to cover home ownership costs in Toronto in the second quarter. Meanwhile, home ownership costs would require only 38.8 per cent and 29.3 per cent of average household income in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.

"If you're a nurse working in Toronto, you can't afford to live anywhere near where you work," Moffatt said.

"But you could get a job in Calgary and have something like a 10-minute commute. That's a very attractive proposition to people."

While the loss of 21,000 people is a small share of the province's overall population – Ontario is the country's most populous province with 15.1 million people – University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe says "it might be indicative of a problem that could create longer-term challenges."

"If younger people move out of Ontario consistently for many quarters, or for years on end, then that's going to represent a longer-term challenge for the province," Tombe said.

"Those people take their human capital with them elsewhere and will then contribute to labour markets, outputs, government tax revenues and so on in other provinces rather than Ontario."

Alberta's population growth came before the provincial government launched the "Alberta is Calling" advertising campaign, aimed at attracting skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver to the province. The campaign, which will cost Alberta $2.6 million, emphasizes home ownership affordability, shorter commute times and career opportunities in emerging industries.

With files from Michelle Zadikian

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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