Migration: Interprovincial, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011

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by Nora Bohnert

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This article examines patterns in the migration of residents from one province or territory to another within Canada for the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 periods.1 The total number of interprovincial migrants is described, as well as the specific migratory flows and balances of each province and territory. Analysis is based on trends beginning in 1976/1977, the first year of the current system of record-keeping. Data come from administrative files, specifically, income tax files, which are considered final.

Number of interprovincial migrants in Canada

In 2009/2010, the total number of interprovincial migrants in Canada was 259,200, while this declined further to 257,100 in 2010/2011; the two lowest levels observed since 1976/1977 (Table 1).2 Canada’s total internal migration has declined for four consecutive periods beginning in 2007/2008. Before 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, the previous lowest period of interprovincial migration was 2003/2004 (261,400). As seen in Figure 1, both the number and rate of interprovincial migrants generally declined between 1976/1977 and 2010/2011, despite growth of the Canadian population.

Economic trends often influence migratory patterns, with regions that are experiencing economic growth ‘pulling’ migrants from elsewhere in Canada and regions that are experiencing difficult economic times ‘pushing’ individuals to migrate elsewhere in the country.

In addition to the state of the economy, other factors may influence internal migration levels and flows. The age structure of the population may be among these factors. As Canada’s median age increases, proportionally more people are past the peak migration ages (ages 15 to 34), which could contribute to the decline in the number of migrants. The median age of interprovincial migrants increased from 23.6 years in 1976/1977 to 29.5 years in 2010/2011, reflecting in part the influence of the aging population.

Population aging alone does not account for the decrease in the number of interprovincial migrants, however. As seen in Figure 2, migration rates have declined over time for virtually all ages, especially at the peak mobility ages of young adulthood.

Interprovincial in-migrants and out-migrants

As was the case for the total level of interprovincial migration, levels of both in- and out-migration were generally lower for the provinces and territories in 2009/2010 compared to 2008/2009 (see Tables 2 and 3). In fact, 9 out of 13 jurisdictions experienced decreases in both the number of exits and the number of entrants between the two periods; only Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and the Northwest Territories experienced an increase in the number of in-migrants.

Compared to 2009/2010, the 2010/2011 period saw more mixed interprovincial migration patterns, with only the province of Ontario experiencing a decrease in both in-migration and out-migration. Eight of 13 jurisdictions experienced decreases in the number of in-migrants compared to the previous period; the exceptions being New Brunswick, Alberta, and the three Territories.

In terms of entrants, Alberta experienced the largest decrease (17,200), from 75,200 in 2008/2009 to 58,000 in 2009/2010. This resulted in Alberta losing its previous standing as the largest receiver of interprovincial migrants to Ontario, which received 59,700 in-migrants. Ontario also experienced the largest increase in in-migrants between the two periods, receiving 2,200 more than in 2008/2009 (57,500).

In the 2010/2011 period, Alberta returned to its position as the largest receiver of interprovincial migrants, experiencing an increase of 6,000 in-migrants compared to the 2009/2010 period to receive 64,000 overall. Ontario fell to second place following a decline of 1,400 in-migrants between 2009/2010 (59,700) and 2010/2011 (58,300).

In terms of exits, Ontario experienced the largest decrease in out-migration, losing 8,700 fewer people to other jurisdictions in 2009/2010 than in 2008/2009. Despite this, Ontario remained the largest source of out-migrants in 2009/2010 (64,400), followed by Alberta (61,200).

In contrast to the 2009/2010 period, in 2010/2011, most jurisdictions experienced an increase in the number of out-migrants, the exceptions being Ontario, Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Once again, Ontario experienced the largest decline in out-migrants, losing 2,100 fewer people to other jurisdictions in 2010/2011 than in 2009/2010. Ontario remained, however, the largest source of out-migrants in 2010/2011 (62,300), followed by Alberta (55,500). The largest increase in out-migration between 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 occurred in British Columbia, with an increase of 3,600 exits between the two periods.

Net interprovincial migration

While Canada experiences a total number of interprovincial migrants, each province and territory experiences a specific exchange of inflows and outflows with the other provinces and territories. The net migration of a given province or territory is the difference between the inflows and outflows of migrants. If a given jurisdiction holds a negative migratory balance, this means that more individuals left that particular jurisdiction for elsewhere in Canada than the number that entered it from elsewhere in the country; the opposite is the case for a positive migratory balance. Note that with the tax data sources utilized for this article, it is not possible to identify the mobility history of an individual, that is, whether a person leaving a given place of origin for a particular destination is in fact returning to their province or territory of birth or leaving their home province or territory for the first time.

While the net number of migrants for a particular province or territory summarizes the direction of interprovincial migration flows, it does not provide information regarding the overall level of entrances into—and exits out of—a particular jurisdiction of Canada, nor the specific sources of those entrants and destinations of those exits. For this, it is necessary to examine interprovincial origin-destination matrices, which provide, for each province and territory, a breakdown of the number of entrants from each possible source and the number of exits to each possible destination. The individual jurisdictions of Canada tend to exchange migrants with a limited number of provinces and territories due to geographic proximity, economic links, or for other reasons. Between any one jurisdiction and another, a migratory balance can be calculated indicating which migratory partner experiences a positive versus negative balance in the migratory exchange, and how these patterns may evolve over time.

Net gains for all of the Atlantic provinces in 2009/2010

In 2009/2010, all of the Atlantic provinces experienced a net gain of interprovincial migrants; the first time such a pattern has occurred since 1982/1983. In 2010/2011, however, Newfoundland and Labrador was the sole Atlantic province to retain a positive balance, while Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick returned to negative balances.

Following a long history of net losses, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador experienced its third consecutive period of net gains in 2010/2011, with slightly more (30) people entering the province than exiting. This positive balance was lower than both 2009/2010 (1,600) and 2008/2009 (1,900), with 2008/2009 being the highest net gain for the province on record since 1976/1977.

In 2009/2010, Newfoundland and Labrador’s net gain was the result of 9,000 entrants to the province versus 7,400 exits. As has been the case for many years, Alberta and Ontario were the major sources of migratory exchanges with Newfoundland and Labrador, followed by Nova Scotia. In total, Newfoundland and Labrador received 1,000 more migrants from Ontario than it lost to this province in 2009/2010. The province also experienced a slight net gain with the province of Alberta (400) in 2009/2010, in contrast to the small net loss of 100 persons observed in 2008/2009.

In 2010/2011, Newfoundland and Labrador’s small net migratory gain was the result of 7,790 entrants and 7,760 exits. While Newfoundland and Labrador retained a positive migratory balance with Ontario in this period (700), it returned to a negative balance with Alberta (-800).

Given its relatively small population, Prince Edward Island’s net interprovincial migrantion fluctuates greatly over time. In recent years (from 2004/2005 to 2008/2009), the province had experienced small net losses of interprovincial migrants. In 2009/2010, a break in this trend occurred with a small net gain of 60 persons for the province. This net migratory gain was the result of 2,650 exits and 2,710 entrants to the province. Prince Edward Island’s major migratory exchanges were with Ontario, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Like Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island transitioned to a positive migratory balance with Alberta in 2009/2010 compared to a net loss in 2008/2009.

In 2010/2011, Prince Edward Island’s transition to negative net migration was a result of a decline in the number of entrants (-200) and an increase in the number of exits (100) compared to the 2009/2010 period. Unlike in the previous period, Prince Edward Island held a negative migratory balance with Alberta in 2010/2011 (-100), as well as Ontario and Nova Scotia, its other major migratory exchange sources.

Nova Scotia received 600 more entrants from other areas of the country than exits from the province in 2009/2010. This represented an interruption in recent trends, as the province had experienced consecutive net losses of interprovincial migrants between 2003/2004 and 2008/2009. In 2009/2010, there was the highest net gain of interprovincial migrants for the province since 1984/1985. In 2009/2010, Nova Scotia’s net balances with its two largest sources of migratory exchange, Ontario and Alberta, were positive (300 persons and 100 persons, respectively). The positive balance with Alberta was a reversal from 2008/2009’s net loss.

Nova Scotia returned to a slightly negative migratory balance in 2010/2011 (-40), mostly a result of a decline of 600 in-migrants, as well as an increase of 30 out-migrants compared to the previous 2009/2010 period. In contrast to the 2009/2010 period, Nova Scotia transitioned to a negative migratory balance in 2010/2011 with Alberta (-800), while it retained a positive migration balance with Ontario (600).

Prior to 2009/2010, New Brunswick had experienced net interprovincial losses continuously since 1991/1992. However, since 2005/2006, the level of the net losses had been steadily diminishing. This trend progressed into a net gain of 600 interprovincial migrants in 2009/2010. New Brunswick received 10,900 in-migrants and lost 10,300 out-migrants to other areas of Canada in 2009/2010. As with Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the change in the province’s net migration from negative to positive between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 was mostly a result of a decline in the number of exits. New Brunswick’s major migratory exchanges were with Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia. Like Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick’s net migration with Alberta changed in favour of New Brunswick in 2009/2010, with 200 more people moving from Alberta to New Brunswick than vice-versa.

The 2010/2011 period saw a return to negative net migration for New Brunswick, with 200 more exits than entrants. New Brunswick’s transition to a negative migratory balance in 2010/2011 was mainly the result of a decline of 700 entrants to the province compared to the previous period. New Brunswick saw 400 more persons migrate to Alberta than enter the province from Alberta. However, with its largest migratory trade source- Ontario- New Brunswick held a positive balance (400) in 2010/2011.

Quebec continues to hold a negative interprovincial migratory balance

In 2009/2010, the province of Quebec lost 3,300 more persons to interprovincial migration than what it gained, sustaining its long history of net losses since 1976/1977. That said, the net loss in 2009/2010 was less than half of what occurred in 2008/2009 (-7,400), continuing a trend of diminishing net losses for the third consecutive period.

The negative migratory balance for Quebec in 2009/2010 was the result of 24,300 exits and 21,000 entrants. The diminishing of Quebec’s negative balance between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 can be attributed mostly to a decline in the number of people exiting the province (a decrease of 3,400 persons between the two periods), but also to a small increase in the number of people entering the province (an additional 700 persons between the two periods). Quebec’s major migratory exchanges were with Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. In both 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, Quebec held negative migratory balances with each of these provinces.

Compared to the 2009/2010 period, in 2010/2011 Quebec experienced a decline of 1,100 in the number of in-migrants (19,900), accompanied by a small increase of 300 in the number of out-migrants (24,600). Thus, Quebec’s net migration became more negative in the 2010/2011 period (-4,800). Quebec’s largest negative balance was with Ontario, with 3,500 more persons exiting the province for Ontario than entering the province from Ontario in 2010/2011.

Ontario's negative net migratory balance shrinks for two consecutive periods

A large contributor to Canada’s interprovincial migration, Ontario has experienced successive periods of net migratory gain and net loss over the past forty years. Since 2003/2004, Ontario has experienced net losses of interprovincial migrants, and that trend persisted in 2009/2010 with a net loss of 4,700 persons. Like Quebec, however, the 2009/2010 net loss for Ontario was substantially smaller than that experienced in 2008/2009 (-15,600). This shift was mostly attributable to a decrease of 8,600 exits between the two periods but also to a gain of 2,200 entrants between the two periods. Ontario’s major migratory exchanges were with Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec. Overall, Ontario’s balance improved with its major migratory exchange partners between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, becoming less negative with Alberta and British Columbia and more positive with Quebec.

In the 2010/2011 period, Ontario experienced a decrease in both the number of entrants (-1,400) and the number of exits (-2,100) to the province compared to the previous 2009/2010 period. Ontario’s migratory balance with its largest trading partner, Alberta, became more negative in 2010/2011 (-3,800) compared to the previous period (-2,400).

Manitoba's negative migratory balance continues

In 2009/2010, 2,400 more persons left the province of Manitoba than entered it, continuing its long history of net interprovincial migration losses that has remained unchanged since 1984/1985. The net loss was, however, the smallest experienced by the province since 1998/1999 (-2,100), and continued a trend of diminishing net losses since 2005/2006. The negative balance for Manitoba grew larger, however, in the 2010/2011 period, with 3,500 more persons exiting the province than entering it.

Manitoba’s negative migratory balance of 2,400 in 2009/2010 was the result of 11,800 entrants and 14,200 exits. The small improvement in the migratory balance of Manitoba from 2008/2009 was mostly attributable to a decline of 800 in the number of exits between the two periods. In 2010/2011, Manitoba experienced a decrease of 700 in the number of entrants, accompanied by an increase of 400 exits compared to 2009/2010.

Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia were Manitoba’s largest sources of migratory exchange. In both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, Manitoba’s net migratory balance remained negative with these three provinces.

Saskatchewan retains a positive migratory balance for five consecutive periods

For the fifth consecutive period, Saskatchewan experienced a net gain of interprovincial migrants in 2010/2011, with 500 more people entering the province than leaving it. The net gain was slightly smaller than that experienced in 2009/2010 (2,200) and 2008/2009 (3,000), making it the third consecutive period in which net gains have diminished from the previous period.

Saskatchewan received 17,200 entrants and saw 15,100 leave the province for elsewhere in Canada in 2009/2010. This resulted in a slight decrease in the province’s positive migratory balance compared to 2008/2009 (2,200 compared to 3,000); due in large part to a decline of 900 in the number of annual entrants between the two periods. In 2010/2011, Saskatchewan experienced 16,600 entrants and 16,100 exits to the province. Compared to the 2009/2010 period, the number of in-migrants to the province declined by 600, while the number of out-migrants from the province increased by 1,000.

Saskatchewan’s largest migratory exchanges were with Alberta, representing close to half of all exits from and entrances to the province in both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. Saskatchewan held a positive migration balance with Alberta between 2005/2006 and 2009/2010, with it receiving 900 more entrants from Alberta than exits to Alberta in the latter period. In 2010/2011, however, Saskatchewan experienced a negative migratory balance of 1,000 persons with Alberta. Saskatchewan’s largest positive migratory balance in 2010/2011 was with Ontario, with 1,300 more persons entering the province from Ontario than exiting for Ontario.

Alberta experiences first migratory net loss in over a decade in 2009/2010

Following fourteen consecutive periods of net gains, Alberta experienced a net loss of 3,300 interprovincial migrants in 2009/2010. This represented a substantial reversal from 2008/2009’s net gain of 13,200 persons, and contrasted even more with 2005/2006’s net gain of 45,800 persons; the highest level recorded in the past four decades for a single province or territory. The net loss in 2009/2010 was the largest experienced by the province since 1987/1988, when a net loss of 23,200 interprovincial migrants occurred.

Alberta’s net loss in 2009/2010 was the result of 58,000 entrances and 61,200 exits from the province. In comparison, Alberta received 75,200 entrants and had 62,100 exits in 2008/2009. Thus, the change in the direction of its balance was mostly a result of a decline of 17,200 annual entrants between the two periods. In 2008/2009, all jurisdictions with the exception of Saskatchewan and British Columbia held negative migratory balances with Alberta. This changed markedly in 2009/2010, when all four of the Atlantic provinces and Yukon experienced a positive migration balance with Alberta. Additionally, those provinces that already held positive migratory balances with Alberta saw their balances grow more positive in 2009/2010, while those that remained with negative balances became less so.  

In contrast to patterns in 2009/2010, Alberta returned to a positive migratory balance of 8,400 persons in 2010/2011, a result of an increase of 6,000 entrants and a decline of 5,700 exits compared to 2009/2010; changes that were the largest in magnitude among the provinces and territories. With all of the other jurisdictions except British Columbia, Yukon and Nunavut, Alberta experienced a positive migratory balance in 2010/2011. Alberta’s largest negative balance was with British Columbia in 2010/2011 (-900), though this balance was considerably less negative than in the previous period (-5,100). The major sources of the entrants to and exits from Alberta changed little between 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, being British Columbia, followed by Ontario and Saskatchewan.

British Columbia continues to hold a positive migratory balance

British Columbia continued its recent history of net gains of interprovincial migrants, gaining 8,700 more persons than it lost in 2009/2010 and 3,400 more than it lost in 2010/2011. The 2010/2011 net gain was half as large as that experienced in 2009/2010, representing the fourth consecutive period in which net gains diminished from the previous period. British Columbia has not experienced a net loss of interprovincial migrants since 2002/2003 (-1,000).

The decline in British Columbia’s positive migratory balance between 2008/2009 (10,000) and 2009/2010 (8,700) was mostly attributable to a decline of 1,600 in the annual number of entrants between the two periods; the annual number of exits also slightly decreased from 41,100 to 40,700. In 2010/2011, British Columbia experienced a decrease of 1,600 in-migrants and an increase of 3,700 out-migrants compared to the previous 2009/2010 period, resulting in a decrease in the province’s total migratory balance (3,400) for the fourth consecutive period.

British Columbia’s major migratory exchanges have been with Alberta, Ontario and Quebec for many years. In both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, British Columbia held positive migratory balances with its three largest exchange partners.

Mixed migratory balances for the Territories

The territories, having small populations, experience low levels of interprovincial migration. Therefore, fluctuations may occur in the direction of their balances from year to year. Yukon experienced a net gain of 300 persons through interprovincial migration in 2009/2010 and 400 persons in 2010/2011, continuing its trend of increasing net gains which has occurred since 2006/2007. The Northwest Territories experienced net losses of 400 interprovincial migrants in 2009/2010 and 200 migrants in 2010/2011, representing two consecutive periods of diminishing negative balances since the net loss of 600 persons in 2008/2009. Nunavut experienced a small net loss of 50 interprovincial migrants in 2009/2010 and a small net gain (70) in 2010/2011.

The individual territories held relatively small migratory exchanges with the provinces and other territories in 2009/2010 due to their smaller populations. Yukon’s largest migratory exchanges were with British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta in both 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, and the territory experienced a small positive migratory balance with each of these provinces in both periods.

Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia held the largest migratory exchanges with the Northwest Territories in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. The territory held a small positive migratory balance with Ontario in both periods, while balances with Alberta and British Columbia were slightly negative.

Nunavut’s migratory exchanges are more diversified than most other jurisdictions, but Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories represented the largest sources of exchange in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. Nunavut experienced a small negative balance with each of these jurisdictions in 2009/2010, but held small positive balances with each of them in 2010/2011.

Summary

In summary, in 2009/2010, Alberta experienced a net loss of interprovincial migrants following 14 consecutive years of sizeable net gains. Additionally, all of the Atlantic provinces experienced net interprovincial migration gains, an occurrence last seen in 1982/1983. In 2010/2011, Alberta returned to a positive balance of interprovincial migrants, while among the Atlantic provinces, only Newfoundland and Labrador retained a positive balance of migrants. For most of the other provinces and territories, recent trends in the balance of interprovincial migration continued: over the two periods, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories experienced net losses while British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon experienced net gains.

Notes

  1. Each period begins July 1 of one year to June 30 of the following year.
  2. All numbers referred to in the text have been rounded to the nearest hundredth for ease of reading. Exceptions are numbers that are less than one hundred or numbers that need to be further distinguished for comparison purposes; these have been rounded to the nearest tenth. Exact numbers can be found in the accompanying tables.
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