Historically, inter-provincial migration to and from Nova Scotia has varied significantly over time. While both in-migration and out-migration have varied over time, since the mid-1990s, in-migration to Nova Scotia has remained relatively steady, while out-migration to other provinces has been the primary source of variation in net inter-provincial migration.

Nova Scotia’s inter-provincial migration flows have been driven to a significant extent by current macroeconomic conditions. As far back as the 1990s, the province’s net inter-provincial migration has generally been counter-cyclical – net outmigration has tended to slow down when the national economy is in recession and speed up when the national economy is expanding.

yearin-migrationout-migrationnet
1971/19721540815598-190
1972/197317301137903511
1973/19741821817235983
1974/197517589157951794
1975/197616392137252667
1976/19771336813998-630
1977/19781266112959-298
1978/19791271712900-183
1979/19801142513217-1792
1980/19811279614865-2069
1981/19821321514839-1624
1982/198313767108172950
1983/198413103100633040
1984/198512412104821930
1985/19861176412662-898
1986/19871190512952-1047
1987/19881273414393-1659
1988/19891429114097194
1989/1990152151515956
1990/19911345613784-328
1991/19921298612997-11
1992/19931254312579-36
1993/19941102412462-1438
1994/19951092613222-2296
1995/19961178212851-1069
1996/19971133112650-1319
1997/19981183913726-1887
1998/19991135511456-101
1999/20001183612170-334
2000/20011122512913-1688
2001/20021225312878-625
2002/20031242612154272
2003/20041123911852-613
2004/20051137513733-2358
2005/20061140314003-2600
2006/20071100915005-3996
2007/20081182513800-1975
2008/20091144912663-1214
2009/20101148511181304
2010/20111096611165-199
2011/20121078213269-2487
2012/2013961912589-2970
2013/2014992512413-2488
2014/20151025312675-2422
2015/20161136811008360
2016/20171149996591840
2017/201812485108211664

Inter-provincial migration has tended to average around the break-even point during national recessions in the early 1990s, the early 2000s, and 2009, while there has been significant net outmigration during the economic boom of the mid-2000s and the post-2009 recovery period.

This suggests that inter-provincial migration flows from Nova Scotia have been driven as much, or more, by strong labour demand pulls from provinces like Alberta and Ontario than by local economic conditions. Migration from Nova Scotia to Alberta, for example, has been highly correlated with non-residential investment in Alberta associated largely with the oil and gas industry.

yearmigrantsinvestment
2000274527893
2001289830424
2002270929652
2003289433723
2004450638040
2005547247091
2006663653043
2007510054895
2008451358071
2009311038717
2010354949133
2011496257987
2012534265405
2013540275592
2014514178673
2015368458632
2016246651586
2017280450643

Since 2014, Nova Scotia has seen both an increase in the number of migrants coming from other provinces as well as a decrease in the number of migrants leaving for other provinces. As investment in Alberta declined over this period, fewer out-migrants from Nova Scotia were destined for Alberta. Since mid-2015, annual out-migration to Alberta has declined to almost half of what it had been in 2013/2014. This has reduced the size of net-migration substantially, although it has returned to a net-outflow after two years of net population gains for Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia saw a net population gain in the last year from all provinces except Alberta.

province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/2018
NL93791799498298711001266
PE528489550530494488556
NB2232193120482110217519732254
QC778740705735735763807
ON5450455148154788497055046106
MB387290377360328350455
SK246256317274330337413
AB2245208923122734363731292657
BC1334118110731102123014491765

province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/2018
NL11171005968934786616732
PE587431427441450433451
NB2093175917871739171416331796
QC716588556687628635801
ON5074472544524874523948435393
MB353297238296329269206
SK452427423370248227218
AB4962534254025141304624662804
BC1580130414461474166311981310

province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/2018
NL-180-882648201484534
PE-5958123894455105
NB139172261371461340458
QC62152149481071286
ON376-174363-86-269661713
MB34-713964-181249
SK-206-171-106-9682110195
AB-2717-3253-3090-2407591663-147
BC-246-123-373-372-433251455

Changes to the indicator, baseline, or target:

  • Due to historical revisions to the data by Statistics Canada, the baseline has been revised from -800 per year to -2,000 per year.
  • “Working age” was defined as ages 18-64 for this goal.
  • The target was maintained at +1,000 working age net inter-provincial migration per year.