Historically, interprovincial migration to and from Nova Scotia has varied significantly over time. While this is so, since the mid-1990s, in-migration to Nova Scotia has remained relatively steady. Out-migration to other provinces has been the primary source of variation in net interprovincial migration. However, since 2014 in-migration has been trending upward and out-migration has been declining.

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
2000274531433
2001289834285
2002270933415
2003289438003
2004450642867
2005547253068
2006663659775
2007510061862
2008451365441
2009311043630
2010354955368
2011496265347
2012534273706
2013540285186
2014514190006
2015304666040
2016246651586
2017242750643

Since mid-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. As of 2018/2019, annual out-migration to Alberta has declined to half of what it had been in 2013/2014. This has reduced the size of net-migration substantially and has resulted in net population gains for Nova Scotia over the last three years. Nova Scotia saw a net population gain in the last year from all provinces except Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/20182018/2019
NL937917994982987110011651480
PE528489550530494488510563
NB22321931204821102175197320612163
QC778740705735735763738658
ON54504551481547884970550456476123
MB387290377360328350426493
SK246256317274330337325347
AB22452089231227343637312927482745
BC13341181107311021230144916212263
province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/20182018/2019
NL11171005968934786616578536
PE587431427441450433429606
NB20931759178717391714163317161979
QC7165885566876286357341055
ON50744725445248745239484347434903
MB353297238296329269204173
SK452427423370248227212246
AB49625342540251413046246624272724
BC15801304144614741663119812211273
province2011/20122012/20132013/20142014/20152015/20162016/20172017/20182018/2019
NL-180-882648201484587944
PE-595812389445581-43
NB139172261371461340345184
QC62152149481071284-397
ON376-174363-86-2696619041220
MB34-713964-181222320
SK-206-171-106-9682110113101
AB-2717-3253-3090-240759166332121
BC-246-123-373-372-433251400990

At the county level, net migration tends to follow the same overall trend as the provincial total. Most counties saw net inflows of working age people in 2017/2018. Cape Breton had the largest net outflow among the counties that year. Only Cape Breton, Antigonish and Colchester counties have not seen at least one net inflow of working age people in the last three years.

census divisionnet interprovincial migration
Shelburne81
Yarmouth87
Digby90
Queens55
Annapolis158
Lunenburg98
Kings113
Hants57
Halifax1007
Colchester-34
Cumberland61
Pictou-1
Guysborough15
Antigonish-40
Inverness43
Richmond30
Cape Breton-190
Victoria34

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.