ontario population

People are ditching life in Ontario for other provinces in near-record numbers

Ontario just recorded its single-largest outflow of population since the early 1980s, part of a wave of inter-provincial migration that spiked in the second quarter of 2021.

Over 123,000 people moved from one Canadian province to another in Q2 of 2021, a 55.1 per cent leap in residents leaving their provinces for green pastures elsewhere in the country.

That's the most significant jump in inter-provincial migration recorded in 30 years, falling just shy of the third quarter of 1991, and well short of the record April-to-June figures seen in the late 1970s, when as many as 150,000 Canadians were relocating from one province to another.

And of all the provinces, Ontario saw the largest share of residents moving away, with almost 12,000 abandoning the country's economic heart — with some of the highest living costs in Canada — for new starts in other provinces. 

Ontario losing residents for other locales could be the product of the growing shift to remote work catalyzed by recent lockdowns. Many employees can now perform their jobs without the need for commuting to a physical workspace, freeing them from expensive urban real estate and making lower-cost provinces more attractive.

RE/MAX states that "the global health crisis also served as an opportunity for urban dwellers, flush with enormous equity, to leave behind these metropolises for suburban life. But this shift has created fresh hurdles for people living in those areas, as out-of-province and out-of-town buyers are elevating the price of these once-affordable homes by outbidding others by remarkable levels."

So where are all the people going?

It seems that the Maritime region has become an attractive alternative to life in the big city, with provinces in Atlantic Canada recording their largest population booms in decades.

With much lower home prices than the runaway real estate markets in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia, the Maritimes are only growing more attractive.

Price may be a factor in attracting out-of-province residents, but it turns out dollar signs aren't everything in this equation.

Despite being home to the highest home prices in the entire country, British Columbia drew in over 15,000 new residents last quarter, the second-highest share of incoming inter-provincial migration.

Many Ontarians might be on the way out of the province, but that doesn't necessarily mean the province should expect a downward trend in population.

Approximately 1.2 million new residents are expected to enter Canada in the next three years, many expected to settle right here in Ontario.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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