Last Updated on February 6, 2020
Every year since 1971 more Canadians left Quebec for another province than in the other direction.
Quebec has recorded negative net inter-provincial migration rates for each of the last 45 years, Statistics Canada figures show.
Every other province has at least two years of positive migration during this period.
The figures were highlighted in a Fraser Institute paper titled ‘Interprovincial Migration in Canada: Quebeckers Vote with Their Feet’.
The French-speaking province’s largest negative out migration came in 1977-78, when 46,500 more Canadians left the province than arrived.
The closest it came to posting positive a positive migration was 2003-04, when the net figure was -822.
Overall, Quebec lost 582,470 people to other Canadian provinces since 1971, many of them young people just starting their careers.
Figures show Quebec’s birthrate is currently at an all-time low of 1.6 children born for every woman in the province in 2015.
Combined with an aging population and other demographic factors, the question becomes how the province makes up this shortfall.
Those who argue for increased immigration levels must tread cautiously as Quebeckers are sensitive about what they see as a threat to their cultural identity.
When the Quebec Liberal government recently suggested it would raise immigration levels to 60,000 per year from 50,000, a negative response ensued and authorities retreated. Current levels will remain the same for the next two years.
B.C. Housing Market
Quebec has authority to exclusively manage its own immigration policies and programs. At 50,000 per year, it admits more immigrants to its province than any other province. A challenge has been to increase its retention levels.
Many of those who do come in via one of the province’s immigration programs often settle elsewhere, using the freedom of mobility afforded them under the Canada Charter.
The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) is controversial because many wealthy individuals end up settling in British Columbia, where the housing market is out of control because of the impact of foreign investors, among other influences.
There are some redeeming factors for Quebec. Since 2003, Ontario has a larger negative net migration, with a total loss of 142, 514 compared to 101,497 people.
The major recipients of these migrants were Alberta and B.C.
When out-migration is expressed as a percentage of total population, Newfoundland & Labrador comes out on top, having lost 23.1 per cent of its 2015 population.
Quebec (7 per cent) is only fourth on this list, behind Saskatchewan (17.3 per cent) and Manitoba (17 per cent).
Despite consistently negative net inter-provincial migration, Quebec actually has the lowest out-migration rate of any of the provinces.
Given the trend illustrated above, this might be difficult to comprehend, but the province’s net negative number stems from its extremely low in-migration levels.
For example, just 3.9 Canadians per 1,000 left Quebec for other provinces in 2014/2015, compared with 5.9 for Toronto and 9.2 for B.C.
Bottom of the list was Prince Edward Island, with 23.5 per 1,000 people leaving the province. Since 1971, Quebec has experienced average out-migration of 5.4 Canadians per 1,000 people.
However, in terms of in-migration, Quebec also recorded the lowest levels, at just 2.1 Canadians per 1,000 in 2014/2015, compared with 4.5 for Ontario and 20.5 for Alberta, the highest of all the provinces.
Quebec’s average in-migration since 1971 is 3.5 Canadians per 1,000 people.
Therefore, Quebec has lost an average 1.9 Canadians per 1,000 people each year since 1971.
The Fraser Institute paper concludes: “Quebec loses relatively few residents each year but it attracts only minimal migration from other Canadian provinces, which explains its comparatively high level of net out-migration.
“Indeed, over the 44-year period, the Atlantic provinces had almost twice as much in-migration (1,868,104) as Quebec (1,069,306) on a population base less than a third of Quebec’s.”
Inter-Provincial Migration in the Remaining Provinces
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