Metro Vancouver is a great source of data. I’ve put together this little figure drawing upon their net migration dataset from 1996-2013* to get a sense of how different components of net migration influence the region. Obviously, the overwhelming driver of growth for Metro Vancouver comes from international migration, and it has for some time. Vancouver is a gateway metropolis into Canada. By contrast, net provincial migration rises above and falls below zero like the tides (perhaps in response to the fortunes of oil next door). Net intraprovincial migration is consistently negative. More people leave for other parts of BC than arrive from the rest of the province.
On the face of it, this seems consistent with the gateway story. Immigrants flood into Metro Vancouver, from whence people gradually trickle outward to the rest of the province. But this kind of data has also been used (especially when it works in conjunction with the outward tide of interprovincial migration) to suggest that unaffordability in Vancouver, particularly of single family houses, is driving everyone away. More often, the stories are anecdotal: a doctor leaves in a huff ; a public relations professional moves to Squamish; a Calgary management consultant refuses an offer to move to Vancouver. But sometimes arguments are made, and vague statistics leveraged, suggesting that housing prices are pushing everyone out of Vancouver.
Taking all forms of migration together, that story simply doesn’t work. Quite obviously, too many people are still coming in to Vancouver to claim that everyone is being pushed out. But there is another kind of story that can be told: housing prices (or other forces), linked perhaps to particular lifestyles or standards of living, are pushing some types of people away. Professional people. Entrepreneurial people. Young people. People with kids. People from the area. People who aren’t immigrants.
Housing prices and rents really are very, very high. And some of these stories may even be true (though I suspect most aren’t). One way or another, I hope to look into many of them in the future (consider this part I). But for now it’s worth noting that any story focusing on the loss of some types of movers and migrants runs the risk of implicitly or explicitly devaluing the many others who keep arriving.
*- yearly data compiled from BC Stats and Statistics Canada data, including immigration records and use of tax records to estimate intra and interprovincial migration, which is kind of neat!