For a lot of us, 2020 was a year to forget thanks to COVID-19—but there were some bright spots. During the pandemic, many of us spent quality time with family, caught up on reading, exercised more and enjoyed a slower pace of life. And for a lot of others, the year represented a chance to pack up and move in search of a fresh start and a clean slate.
We analyzed data from 1,450 moves throughout the year to create a report on where Canadians decided to move to last year, and one significant theme rose to the top: Canadians were loving the idea of leaving densely populated cities in favor of wide-open spaces with fewer people.
While major metropolitan cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary topped the list of cities that had the most total moves, the sheer size of those cities surely sways the data. In our option, the best way to illustrate what’s really happening is by ranking the Canadian cities with the highest net gain of moves, meaning the final outcome when comparing moves into a city with the number of moves out. Based on that data, here’s a quick look at the top five (and then some) places Canadians moved to most in 2020.
- Kelowna, British Columbia – Located on the southern interior of BC, this city on the Okanagan Lake has everything someone could look for in a new home. There are ample recreation activities and a booming service and tourism (at least pre-COVID-19) industry that employs many locals. Crime in the area is generally low, and the crime that does occur tends to be non-violent.
- Moncton, New Brunswick – The largest urban centre in New Brunswick, Moncton is known as the “Hub City” because of its history in providing railway and land transportation assistance. Centrally located in the Maritimes, Moncton’s economy has received national acclaim, backed by its low unemployment rate.
- Sooke, British Columbia – Our second BC city on the list, Sooke is on the southern end of Vancouver Island and just a stone’s throw from Victoria. The city is most known for its spectacular scenery, including its beaches and ample wilderness parks. Residents also enjoy the fact that Sooke is somewhat of an artist’s haven, playing host to many painters, writers, actors and other crafters.
- Thunder Bay, Ontario; Okotoks, Alberta; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario; Qualicum Beach, British Columbia – We weren’t joking when we said the top five (and then some) because our list actually includes seven different locales, with these four cities tying for spots No. 4 through 7.
Thunder Bay is the largest city in northwestern Ontario, but you wouldn’t know it because of how quaint it feels. Our top-ranked Alberta city, Okotoks, has less than 30,000 people in population but views that won’t quit. Sault Ste. Marie is just across the Michigan border and the St. Mary’s River in Ontario. And rounding out our list, Qualicum Beach is our smallest town on the list with about 9,000 people, though it’s also historically been popular with tourists.
If you’re curious about a few of the other cities that made the cut, the next on the list are Fredericton, New Brunswick; Montreal, Quebec; and St. Albert, Alberta. Stay tuned for next time when we look at the other end of the data, recapping the cities where Canadians most moved from throughout 2020.