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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Population Changes; Will They Change Canada?

Stats Canada reports the national population increased by 85,500 in the first Quarter of 2013.  The ratio is 3 to 1 of population coming from immigration compared to internal growth.  The national average growth is .02% a rate that aligns with Ontario, Quebec, BC and Manitoba.

In real numbers new immigrants totaled 62,700 which was 4,600 more than Qtr1 of 2012.  The net flow of "non-permanent resident immigrants" (a technical term for Temporary Foreign workers?) was 14,900 in Qtr1 of 2013 versus 12,900 in Qrt1 of 2012.  That said our natural population sources were down 6.8% in 2013 from 2012.

The national figures are interesting but the provincial figures tell us more about the trends in the country.  What those population shifts mean is the really interesting stuff of these stats.  The core story is the continuing shift of population (and power?) to Alberta.  It is only about the first quarter of 2013 but the facts are telling.

Newfoundland is stable and PEI is down 200 folks.  Nova Scotia lost 1,800 people to net migration to other places in Canada. Actually 1,100 Nova Scotians moved to Alberta in the first three months this year. New Brunswick lost 700 folks to Alberta in the same time frame.  Jobs are still the attraction to Alberta.  The unanswered question are these Maritimers moving to the oil sands or are they flying in and flying out?  My sense is they moved so there is even more "migration" when you consider the fly in-fly out folks who still consider home to be in the Maritimes.

Central Canada is growing modestly but Quebec tells an interesting story.  Quebec grew past 8 million with comparable year to year growth of 14,100 new citizens, but 11,700 came from international immigration sources.  That is the second highest level in Quebec history, the highest level of international immigrants came in 1992.  Quebec is not losing many people to other parts of Canada either, only 900, the smallest out-migration since 2005.

Ontario is also growing at the national average.  There are over 13.5 m Canadians living in Ontario, up 22,700 in the first quarter of 2013, but hat is the lowest growth there since 1972. International migration is up 1000 compared to 2013 but Ontario lost 6000 people to Alberta in the same time frame.

B.C. is up 10,100 folks year over year, aligned with the 0.2% national average with 9,800 being international immigrants, but 3,400 of them are actually non-permanent resident types.  B.C. also lost 2,500 people to Alberta in the first 90 days of 2013.

Saskatchewan and Alberta tell a very different story.  Saskatchewan grew 0.4%  in the quarter mostly international migration which was at its second highest level in 2012 since 1972 and 2013 became the new second level of international immigration.  People are returning to the province, not leaving it.

Alberta is a case study very different from the rest. We grew by 34,000 which is 0.9% of a population just shy of 4 million now. This is the highest Alberta growth rate since 1972.  It comes from international immigration of 8,100, non-permanent immigrants of 6,900.  We have a net migration from within Canada of 13,400 mostly from Ontario and B.C.

This continuing shift to Alberta is about jobs and the economic influence of the oil sands.  Even may jobs staying in the rest of Canada are driven by oil sands development.  This is good and bad news for Alberta.  We have serious skilled labour shortages but the Stats Can numbers don't tell us if the migrants to Alberta are skilled.  They also don't come with their houses, schools, hospital beds or other infrastructure requirements. The growth infrastructure in Fort McMurray is already an unaddressed crisis. This population shift means it get worse unless provincial political attitudes about investing in public infrastructure changes - and dramatically.