Ontario’s young adults are leaving the province in droves. This is due to the rising cost of living

A record number of people left Ontario in 2022.  Analysts blame the rising cost of living, particularly real estate, as the reason most young adults are putting down roots.  (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

A record number of people left Ontario in 2022. Analysts blame the rising cost of living, particularly real estate, as the reason most young adults are putting down roots. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Ontario may describe itself as a “growth place,” but Nicole Forster, a 25-year-old nurse from London, Ontario whose salary has been frozen for years in a chronically underfunded healthcare system, sees it differently.

Submitted by Nicole Forster

Submitted by Nicole Forster

“The staffing issues were insane. Bill 124, with its restrictions on nurses’ pay rises, was an insult,” she said. “I’m leaving the province at the end of April, beginning of May. In Ontario it feels like I’ll never be able to own a house.”

She’s moving to Edmonton, a city where the average rent for a bedroom is $1,099 and an average house cost $369,286 last month — a far cry from the $1,774 for a one-bedroom rent and $621,912 US dollars for an average house in her hometown of London.

About 50,000 people left Ontario for Alberta or Atlantic Canada in the last 12 months. Analysts blame the rising cost of living, stagnant wages and low housing affordability as reasons for the record number of people seeking greener pastures elsewhere — and while the province’s population is by no means shrinking, Ontario has never seen such a large exodus.

‘Record level’ emigration from Ontario

“We’re seeing record levels of emigration from Ontario to other provinces, particularly Alberta and Atlantic Canada,” said Mike Moffatt, economist and senior director of the Smart Prosperity Institute, an Ottawa think tank that focuses on economics.

John Badcock/CBC

John Badcock/CBC

“Typically in any given year about 80,000 people move to Ontario from across Canada and another 80,000 leave the country. In the last 12 months we’ve attracted the same number of people, but we’ve actually lost an additional 50,000 or 130,000.”

Moffatt said most of them are young adults between the ages of 25 and 35, although some seniors are also going. Many of them are moving to communities with less expensive housing, such as Edmonton, Alta. and Saint John and Moncton, NB.

“I think it’s clear that a lot of these are in their early home-buying years and they’re moving into markets with much cheaper homes, which is driving a lot of that.”

This fact has not escaped the attention of the Alberta government, which has cheaper homes as a central element of its “Alberta Calling” marketing campaign. The ads have appeared on public transit in cities like Toronto and Ottawa, where it is hoped young adults waiting for their stops will heed the siren call of lower housing prices and head west, where they will settle and raise families.

Alberta benefits from Ontario’s affordability crisis

“Alberta is calling again, and this time we’re hoping people will respond from across Ontario and Atlantic Canada,” said Brian Jean, the province’s minister for labor and northern development, while relaunching a campaign he said was affecting 33,000 people attracted Alberta last year.

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

Chelsea Kemp/CBC

“We have the cheapest apartments in all of Canada. For example, people can now sell their house in Toronto or in Vancouver and buy four houses here, live in one and rent three. That’s the kind of market we have right now. “

“No sales tax, low cost of living, very affordable – that’s what job seekers get when they call home in Alberta.”

Back in Ontario, Moffatt said the campaign was having the desired effect.

No sales tax, low cost of living, very affordable. – Brian Jean, Alberta Minister for Jobs, Business and Northern Development

“In Ontario there is a lot of frustration from people who have good paying jobs but still can’t afford a home. You look at the fact that you can get a place in Edmonton cheaper than in Tillsonburg or anywhere in Southwestern Ontario – that looks like a very attractive proposition.”

The only solution, Moffatt said, is for Ontario to solve its housing affordability problem before it’s too late.

“We’re going to have this situation where we’re going to have to build a lot more houses, but we’re not going to be able to do that because with all the roofers, plumbers and electricians moving across the country, I think that’s a problem both economically and socially .”

“I don’t think it’s a great thing for our young people that if they want to buy a house and raise kids, they feel like they can’t do that in Ontario and need to go somewhere else.”


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