More people moved away from Ontario to other parts of Canada in 2021 than have left the province in any year since 1981, according to an analysis by Scotiabank. 

The study, called “A Sudden Move: Understanding Interprovincial Migration out of Ontario,” revealed that while Ontario’s population rose by 175,000 due to immigration, more than 108,000 Ontarians left for different provinces.

“Pandemic restriction severity, housing affordability, and telework adoption all appear to have influenced the trend—in contrast to past periods of strong out-migration that mirrored starker differences in regional economic conditions,” said Scotiabank senior economist Marc Desormeaux in the paper published on Mar. 17. 

Desormeaux wrote that Maritime provinces were seeing record numbers of people move from Ontario and that British Columbia welcomed more Ontarians than at any point since the 1990s. According to the report, more people also moved from Ontario to Quebec than vice versa for the first time in recorded history. 

British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, reported Desormeaux, might have seen upticks in Ontario residents because of less strict COVID-19 restrictions. If Ontario continues to reopen with limited COVID-19 cases, he said, the migration out of the province might be reduced. 

Ontario has also experienced the longest lockdowns anywhere in North America throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario implemented a fourth lockdown in January, citing large case counts stemming from the Omicron variant. 

According to the paper, the variety of provinces that Ontarians are moving to might also stems from housing affordability challenges in the last few years, as well as more remote work. Toronto surpassed Vancouver as Canada’s priciest local housing market in February. 

A number of Canadian cities, some of them in Ontario, saw home price increases averaging at or near six figures, according to Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) data obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“It is not yet clear if the shift in Ontario interprovincial migration will prove to be a permanent one,” said Desormeaux. “Even if the macroeconomic drag proves transitory, or can be offset by immigration, interprovincial headcount losses should still reinforce the need to step up efforts to improve housing affordability.” 

Figures revealed that average price gains were at or near $100,000 or more in Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. Housing prices increased the most in the Greater Toronto Area, where they went up by $286,000 (31%) to about $1.2 million.