The Top 5 Provinces Canadians Are Leaving

Few things are more exciting than a fresh start. There’s just something incredibly inspiring and charming about packing up your belongings in search of a new adventure. And for Canadians bouncing from one province to another, there are plenty of reasons to get up and go. While each province offers its own unique flavor—whether it’s an abundance of culture, ample opportunities to explore the great outdoors, or exhilarating nightlife—not every province is for every Canadian. Using data from our 2019 Canadian Moving Study, we’re looking closer at the top five provinces Canadians are leaving.

1. Ontario

 It’s hard not to consider the weight of the city of Toronto when evaluating the cons for this province. After all, Ontario’s capital city is the most populous city in Canada and the fourth-most populous city in all of North America. And that’s just in the city limits—its suburbs are home to millions more. While the big city’s bright lights are alluring to some, others may find the city to be a bit too cosmopolitan.

Another deterrent for Ontarians is the increased cost of living. According to SalaryExpert.com, Ontario’s cost of living is 5% higher than the national average, but when you dig deeper into the city of Toronto, that figure jumps to 29% above the national average. There’s also the congestion and traffic that snarls up Toronto-area expressways. One study pegged the average commute time in the city to be 65 minutes—though the province’s average as a whole was 47 minutes. There’s also been a “sustained decline in newly public companies in Ontario,” which could impact the job market, particularly outside of Toronto.  

2. British Columbia

The westernmost province in Canada and the third-most populous province in the country, British Columbia (BC), is renowned for its spectacular scenery. Its capital, Victoria, is a densely populated city heavily dependent on the tourism and technology industries. Unfortunately, BC is also 5% higher than the national average in terms of living cost, with both food and housing scoring significantly higher than average. Those two areas are heightened even more when drilled down into Victoria, which is 15% higher than the national average as a whole.

Much of BC’s intrigue is because of activities in nature like hiking, biking, and skiing. Someone who isn’t a fan of the outdoors may not find what they’re looking for in this province, though the city of Vancouver certainly offers plenty of culture and things to do. And speaking of Vancouver, the city is susceptible to earthquakes, floods, fires, gas leaks, and other natural disasters because of its location and geography.

3. Manitoba

One of the country’s three prairie provinces, Manitoba is the fifth-most populous province in Canada. On the plus side, it’s considerably more affordable than other provinces like Ontario and BC, coming in right at the national average. But as you might expect, those costs ramp up inside its capital city of Winnipeg, where housing costs are considerably more expensive.

While Canada is obviously a cold country, parts of Manitoba can be downright frigid at times. Transportation infrastructure, especially public transit, is also thought to be poor in the province.

4. Alberta

One of only two landlocked provinces in Canada, Alberta is another of the country’s prairie provinces. It also has two of the country’s most important economic hubs in Edmonton and Calgary. As a province, Alberta’s cost is slightly high, at 7% above the national average, with very affordable housing options available. However, both Edmonton and Calgary, those economic pillars where many Albertans live, are more expensive.

One of Alberta’s downsides is that it has a higher crime rate than other popular provinces like Quebec and Ontario. Further, in a Maclean’s list of Canada’s safest cities, Alberta only had two spots in the top 50. Much like Manitoba, Alberta’s transportation infrastructure is inadequate, with 43% of the province’s highways in fair, poor, or very poor condition.

5. Quebec

The second-most populous province in Canada, Quebec is the only province with a predominantly French-speaking population. The cost of living across the province is actually quite good at 4% below the national average. Yet, Montreal has some of the highest cost of living stats in all of Canada at 19% above the average—and roughly half of the province’s population lives in the greater Montreal area and the Island of Montreal.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to living in Quebec for some is the language barrier. About 80% of the population considers French its mother tongue, so it can be challenging for non-native speakers.  Another downside to living in Quebec is the high taxes, which were the highest in Canada.

Whether it’s the cost of living, transportation woes, or just a desire for something new, we can’t say for certain why these five spots top our list of provinces Canadians are leaving. Of note, ­­­the same five provinces also top the list of the most inbound moves, proving yet again that there’s a place for everyone in Canada.