Could Alberta be showing the first signs of ‘brain-drain’?

CALGARY — New data reveals that Alberta is showing signs of losing its advantage of appealing to new residents from other provinces and abroad — in evidence of a net migration loss — and most are headed to British Columbia.

The Annual Population Report – Alberta 2019-20 compiled by the Province revealed Alberta lost 2,733 people to other provinces between April and June of this year “heavily influenced by the economic conditions in the province, and as the economy cooled, the province experience net outflows” it said.

When the number of outflow from British Columbia is subtracted from the number of inflow from Alberta to the western province from July 2019 to June 2020 — the total net migration loss is 5,291 people who packed up and headed further west.

Other data reveals an outflow to the Maritimes and Ontario but at much lower counts when compared with those moving to B.C.

STILL GROWING

Alberta’s official population is now 4,421,876, up 60,182 new residents over the 2019 mid-year population, resulting in annual growth of 1.38 per cent.

Compared to the other provinces and territories, Alberta’s growth rate remains in the top five in the country, but some experts say these could be early signs of ‘brain-drain.’

“Brain-drain is a phrase that we’ve used for many many years, and there is certainly concern about the loss of some of our most skilled people in the tech industries,” said Kevin McQuillan, academic director of the fiscal and economic policy at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

‘VIBES’ NO LONGER ALIGNED

“My life is packed up and I’m heading to B.C.,” said Jess Leblanc to CTV News Friday while her friend drove her vehicle west on the Trans-Canada Highway, destination Ucluelet.

“The vibe and energy (in Calgary) is so cut-throat and competitive and people are just not used to living with less,” she said.

An entrepreneur, life coach and yoga instructor who also offers adventure travel programs, she said she was hard hit by the border closure amid the 2019 pandemic.

As well, after more than six years living in Calgary she soon felt the vibes were no longer aligned for her in southern Alberta.

“I don’t feel I can be my most creative self,” she said, “in this somewhat stifled and fearful environment.”

PHYSICIAN EXODUS

Dr. Amy Tan, hospice physician and professor of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary also spoke to CTV News in the midst of packing boxes and tying up affairs in Calgary.

Her family is headed to Victoria, B.C. She said the political climate in Alberta is a major factor in her decision.

“With all the extra stress and uncertainty that a pandemic is giving to all of us, I didn’t have any hope that (things) were going to improve under more normal circumstances in the future,” said Tan.

She also referenced the tensions between Alberta Government leadership including Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the Alberta Medical Association over the lack of bargaining over doctor’s pay.

As well, her school-aged son is a visible minority and felt the panel to address Alberta’s education curriculum would not adequately incorporate lessons on racial discrimination or truth and reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

“It’s one thing to affect my career and my daily stress (level),” said Tan. “It’s another to affect our child’s future.”

Despite examples of professionals moving to B.C. for better opportunities and environment, McQuillan also adds it may be too soon to have data as to whether the migration to B.C. affects working-aged people or retirees.

He adds the interprovincial migration trends in Alberta have followed boom-and-bust cycles over the years.

“In years gone by, when jobs were plentiful in the province, people from other parts of the country were looking to Alberta as a place to make their fortune,” he said.

“The appeal,” he added, “is simply not there as it was before.”

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