B.C. population exodus continues to flow east

BC has a growing problem with Alberta – and it’s not about more oil getting piped through to the coast.

BC has a growing problem with Alberta – and it’s not about more oil getting piped through to the coast.

For nearly a year and a half, an increasing number of British Columbians have left the province, the vast majority bound for Canada’s oil patch.

According to BC Stats, the eastward migration has been growing since the last quarter of 2010 when nearly 400 people left B.C. for Alberta. Since then, more than 6,000 people have left for wild rose country, 43% of them going in 2012’s first three months.

More people seem increasingly intent on tapping the rosier prospects on the other side of the Rockies with its higher-than- average wages that can lead to $6,000 more in average annual income than what they can get in B.C. (See “Living in Lotus Land losing its fiscal lustre” – BIV issue 1180, June 5-11.)

Alberta’s relatively low housing costs are also attractive.

In sharp contrast to decade-low sales in B.C., Alberta is experiencing a provincewide real-estate boom. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, Alberta has seen 15 consecutive quarters of residential sales increases, with average prices rising 3% year-over-year in July to $363,924.

That’s in sharp contrast to B.C.’s market, where Metro Vancouver sales in particular have dropped 31% year-over-year in August to levels not seen since 1998 – and yet the Lower Mainland’s average house price in the same month was $548,300.

Overall, B.C.’s total population continues to grow, but the rate of growth has slowed significantly over the past year.

Much of the increase has been coming from immigration, but the Lower Mainland itself faces a potential rising exodus as residents see better prospects elsewhere in B.C.

Migration data shows only 105 people from other provinces came to the region in 2011, down from 3,537 in 2010.

And for more than 15 years, thousands have been leaving the Lower Mainland for opportunities elsewhere in B.C., like the Fraser Valley, Central Okanagan and Vancouver Island.

While B.C. has been perceived as a relatively safe haven from global economic turmoil, sluggish growth in Metro Vancouver raises the risk of a wider exodus in the near future.

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