Despite a growing population, driven largely by immigration, Saskatchewan still saw more people move to other provinces, according to new data from Statistics Canada, and ranked near the bottom in overall earnings.
Figures released Wednesday show Saskatchewan’s population grew to 1,194,803 people, up 0.54 percent from 1,188,338 people in the second quarter of this year. Compared to other provinces in the same period, Saskatchewan was in second place as Manitoba and Quebec finished in last place.
Despite the overall gains, Saskatchewan also saw a net loss from interprovincial migration in 2021-22.
Figures released Wednesday show that 15,323 interprovincial migrants moved to Saskatchewan, but 23,225 people moved to other provinces, resulting in a loss of 7,902 interprovincial migrants.
There were 10,186 people who moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta, followed by 5,411 people who moved to BC and 5,076 people who moved to Ontario. Saskatchewan in turn received 6,005 people from Alberta, 3,759 people from Ontario and 2,901 people from BC
When asked about the loss of people to other counties at a press conference designed to celebrate the growing population, Secretary of Commerce and Export Development Jeremy Harrison told reporters, “I would more or less reject the premise of that question.”
He said total net profit is more important.
“The fact that we’ve seen a net increase of 6,500 people is the most important number in all of this,” he said. “I think the fact that they come from outside Canada is positive.”
When it was pointed out again that there was a net loss in interprovincial migration, Harrison replied, “Well, what you’re really insinuating is that there’s some kind of difference here, that some kind of immigration is more valuable than others.”
He said the province will do more to attract people from outside the province, including plans to speed up the process for qualified workers who have immigrated to Saskatchewan.
The province also wants to play a bigger role in immigration, similar to what is allowed in Quebec. It would give Saskatchewan the power to nominate newcomers moving to the province, a transfer of federal funds for settlement services, and a guaranteed provincial allocation of nominees each year that would be proportionate to the province’s population.
Still, critics have said Saskatchewan has a lot more work to do when it comes to attracting people.
Aleana Young, the NDP critic for immigration, said all migration to Saskatchewan is important. She said the government needs to ask “why are they bleeding people to almost every other province in the country.”
Before recent gains, Young noted that Saskatchewan had lost population in the past. For example, there were slight losses in 2020, while other provinces saw gains during that time.
“All migration to Saskatchewan matters. And to me that sounds like the minister is playing a little fast and loose with some songs,” Young said. “Whether someone moves here from abroad or from the East Coast, we don’t want Saskatchewan to be a place where people arrive and see no future for their careers, their families and further investments.”
On an annual basis from the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2022, Saskatchewan reported a population growth of 1.12 percent, again making it the penultimate.
Over the same period, the provinces with the highest growth rates were PEI at 3.6 percent, Nova Scotia at 2.87 percent, New Brunswick at 2.74 percent, BC at 2.24 percent and Alberta at 2.23 percent.
Manitoba grew slightly higher than Saskatchewan at 1.23 percent. Saskatchewan beat Quebec, which was up 1.08 percent. The national average was 1.84 percent.
Of the new immigrants who came to Saskatchewan, Harrison could not provide a breakdown, although he said 1,900 health cards have been issued to Ukrainians who recently entered the province.
The government is arranging a third flight from Warsaw, Poland to bring more Ukrainians to Saskatchewan, likely in October.
Harrison said it would be difficult to arrange a similar flight from Afghanistan since the Taliban is the government. He said the province has had success with the Ukrainian flights thanks to its cooperation with that government.
He noted that Saskatchewan has made significant gains since the late 2000s to early 2010. The government aims to have 1.4 million people in Saskatchewan by 2030.
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