Alberta and Saskatchewan offer the most opportunity for young Canadians, while Ontario and Quebec mimic the economic malaise of Atlantic Canada, finds a new study by the Fraser Institute.
“Western Canada is the land of opportunity while Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, now resemble Atlantic Canada with its gloomy economic outlook and relatively poor prospects for young people,” says Mark Milke, study author and senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.
Between 2003 and 2012, on a net basis, Alberta welcomed 60,855 career-age young adults (aged 25-34) from other parts of the country, by far the highest number among the provinces, followed by B.C. (10,643) and Saskatchewan (581).
Meanwhile, every other province lost young adults. Ontario lost 27,451 young adults, while Quebec lost 24,355.
Jobs are the main reason for the western migration. From 2004 to 2013, the average annual unemployment rates among 25-34 year olds in Alberta (4.2%) and Saskatchewan (4.8%) dwarfed the rates in Quebec (7.3%) and Ontario (7.1%). Ontario also has the highest chronic unemployment rates in Canada-worse than Newfoundland and Labrador.
Moreover, Alberta’s average per person income in 2012 (the latest statistical year available) was $52,207, far higher than Ontario ($40,838) and Quebec ($37,106).
Alberta also leads all provinces in private sector investment, a key driver of employment growth. In 2012, private sector investment in Alberta totalled $60.5 billion, compared to Ontario ($43.1 billion) and Quebec ($25.7 billion).
However, at least one eastern province shows signs of hope. Newfoundland and Labrador has improved in a number of economic categories including private sector investment, per-capita income and weekly wage rates. But the west still rules.
“Today, any young Canadian seeking economic opportunity-a full-time job and the possibility of a middle-income salary or better-has a much better shot in Western Canada,” Milke says. “Ontario and Quebec are not providing opportunities for young adults and have been losing their best and brightest to the dynamic, opportunity-rich economies of Western Canada.”