ONTARIO'S IMMIGRATION DECLINE
Ontario was once a magnet for immigrants as well as Canadians from other provinces seeking greater economic opportunity. People came to Ontario for its good jobs and high incomes. In return, Ontario benefitted from the skills, knowledge and productive energy of newcomers.
In recent years, all this has changed. Thanks to misguided government policies and a sluggish economy, Ontario now attracts a much smaller share of immigrants to Canada than just over a decade ago. What’s more, substantially more people now leave Ontario for other provinces each year. Just over a decade ago, 60% of new immigrants chose to make their home in Ontario.
Today, Ontario attracts just 38% of new Canadians. A look at inter-provincial migration trends within Canada (the movement of people from province to province) tells a similar story. Between 1996 and 2002, Ontario experienced positive net inter-provincial migration every year. This means more people came to Ontario from other parts of Canada than left Ontario for other provinces.
In 2003, the flow of inter-provincial migration reversed. That year, Ontario lost approximately 7,000 more people to other parts of the country than those who came to Ontario from other provinces. Since then, Ontario has experienced negative net out-migration every year. In total, since 2003, more than 140,000 more people have left Ontario for elsewhere in Canada than the other way around. Ontario has clearly lost its status as a magnet for people moving from one province to another within Canada.
But why? In short, poor policy choices have undermined Ontario’s competitiveness and made the province less economically attractive. Consider that as recently as the late 1990s, real disposable income per capita in Ontario was 10% above the national average. Sluggish economic performance throughout the first decade of this century caused this gap to shrink until finally, in 2012, incomes in Ontario fell below the national average for the first time.
The province’s average income is now materially below the Canadian average. Ontario’s economy has declined relative to the rest of Canada due to misguided policy choices, including rapid increases in government spending, that have created a public debt burden that’s among the largest in Canada. Economically harmful tax increases have weakened incentives for Ontarians to work, save and invest.
Given the economic problems these policies have created, it’s no wonder a smaller share of new immigrants from abroad, and inter-provincial migrants within Canada, are choosing Ontario.
The decision to relocate to a new jurisdiction is one that people don’t take lightly. Uprooting one’s family, disposing of assets, searching for work and leaving behind what is known in search of something better is a hard decision. For this reason, observing patterns in where
people choose to settle is a powerful way to gauge which economies are succeeding and failing. Ontario’s migration data tell a clear, sad story. It is one of an economically underperforming province that is no longer a magnet, for people from within Canada and around the world, seeking a better life and greater opportunities.