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Almost 70,000 people left B.C. last year — most to Alberta

For the first time in more than a decade, more people left B.C. than those who moved to the province, according to new data released by Statistics Canada.

In 2023, the agency said, net interprovincial migration was negative for the first time since 2012, at -8,624 people.

Over the last year, 67,944 Canadians left B.C.

Statistics Canada says the majority of them — about 37,650 people — packed up their belongings and moved to Alberta.

“In general, the largest migration flows for British Columbia and Alberta are with each other,” it said in a release.

Moving was a ‘no-brainer’

Kolten Willick understands why some may have felt the urge to move. He left Kelowna, B.C., for Edmonton in 2021.

“The biggest thing was the cost of living,” he said.

Willick says he is a fourth-generation British Columbian. As a member of the Cree Nation, he says he has strong connections to the land. But, he says, B.C. simply became too unaffordable.

He now pays $700 less a month in rent for a home that is almost twice the size.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Willick.

He says he also makes more money working a similar job and pays less for groceries.

Looking back, Willick says he’s confident it was the right decision.

“B.C. will always be home, but I’m almost 30 and I had to make some hard decisions like do I ever want to own a house?” he said.


Alberta saw the biggest surge in interprovincial migration in 2023, with more than 55,000 people moving to the province.

“This was the largest gain in interprovincial migration nationally since comparable data became available in 1972,” said Statistics Canada.

Andy Yan, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, says we’re living in an age of migration where it’s natural for interprovincial movement levels to ebb and flow.

He agrees the cost of living is likely playing a role in people’s decision to move east.

He says we could also be seeing new international immigrants in B.C. making the move, especially since Metro Vancouver serves as a large reception area for new Canadians.

“Once they get their bearings, there’s also a chance that they discover there could be greater opportunities … outside of British Columbia,” said Yan.

The homepage of the Alberta is Calling website is seen. It shows a woman with a dog on a cliff while she take a picture of a small town below.
In 2022, Alberta launched a series of advertisements to entice Canadians to make the move, boasting bigger paycheques and smaller rent payments. (albertaiscalling.ca)

B.C.’s overall population grows

Despite the drop in interprovincial migration, B.C. saw its population climb in 2023. As of Jan. 1, 2024, B.C.’s population grew to more than 5.6 million, with an increase of 178,515 people, according to Statistics Canada.

Some of that growth was driven by immigration with more than 70,000 immigrants moving to B.C.

In a statement, B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said B.C. is a great place to live, but acknowledged it’s facing real challenges.

“Our focus remains on taking action to reduce costs for people — especially the cost of housing — and on delivering the programs and services people count on to live a good life here,” he said.

Kahlon also said B.C. saw its highest-ever total migration levels on record in 2023, adding that B.C.’s population is “booming.”

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