26 March 2008

The New West

Surging West leaves rural image behind

The four western provinces are moving beyond their frontier pasts and are becoming increasingly urbanized -- and are now set to attract up to three million more people through interprovincial and international moves in the next 25 years, according to a new report. "Quite a bit of activity in Canada has shifted to the West," said Brett Gartner, senior economist for the Canada West Foundation and author of the State of the West. "I think the old hinterland thing is in the past." The Calgary-based group's report, set to be released officially today, is a snapshot of demographic and economic trends in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Looking at statistics from the four provinces, the report points out that the West's share of Canada's total economic output (35%) exceeds its share of the population (30%). "It is Western Canada that is driving the Canadian economy," Gartner said.

In demographics, Gartner found that it is interprovincial migration -- mostly to BC and Alberta -- which has led to the lion's share of growth in the West, with the four provinces attracting 629,000 more Canadians than they lost between 1972 and 2007. While each of the provinces had roughly the same share of Western Canada's population in 1931, it's projected that the two westernmost provinces will account for 80% of the West's population by 2031. Through interprovincial migration, BC has gained people in each of the past four years after losing population from 1998 to 2003. In 2007, Saskatchewan gained people from interprovincial migration for the first time since 1984. Manitoba has experienced a net loss of people to other provinces for the past two dozen years, although those losses have been offset by strong immigration, thanks in part to a strong provincial nominee program. The region is still sparsely population by world standards. However, there has been what Gartner calls an "astounding" level of urbanization in the West. The rest of Canada was more urbanized than the West in 1966, but today the regions are more or less equally urbanized. Now, four in five westerners live in cities.
(Calgary Herald 080326)

Economically, it looks like the next few decades will belong to Western Canada, until everything collapses of course. Hopefully it'll be a good run!

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