British Columbia

Reality Check | Who's leaving B.C.?

CBC's Reality Check team decided test the B.C. Liberal Party's claim that tens of thousands of people left B.C. under the NDP government back in the 1990s.

From January 1998 to December 2001 B.C.'s net outmigration was about 50,000 people — but that's not the full story

B.C. had a net population gain when the NDP was last in power 2:26

CBC's Reality Check team decided test to the B.C. Liberal Party's claim that tens of thousands of people left B.C. under the NDP government back in the 1990s.

"Remember Adrian Dix and the NDP 90's. Their out of control of spending meant families were pulled apart, as 50,000 people left B.C. to find work," says the Liberals' campaign ad.

When CBC News asked the Liberals for more details, they said the ad was talking about something called interprovincial migration – which is people moving in or out of B.C. to or from other provinces — not to or from other countries.

And there is some truth to what the party is saying.

According to Statistics Canada, from January 1998 to December 2001 the number of people who left B.C. for other provinces outnumbered Canadians moving to B.C. by about 50,000.

Those final years of the NDP government were the worst four years for outmigration in more than two decades for B.C.

Adrian Dix served as Chief of Staff to NDP Premier Glen clark for three years, from 1996 to 1999.

Digging deeper tells another story

But when CBC's Reality Check team started digging deeper into the stats, all the way back to 1991 — the year the NDP took office — we found people were flooding into B.C. from other provinces.

The trend continued for most of the NDP years in power. In fact so many Canadians came to B.C. during the NDP years, it more than compensated for a drain that began in 1997.

During the NDP decade from 1991 to 2001 B.C. had a net gain of 126,000 people.

According to Statistics Canada, that's double number of people who moved to B.C. during the last decade of Liberal government.

The figures show under the Liberals from 2001 to 2012, B.C. had a net gain of only 54,510 from other provinces.

New wave of outmigration underway

And there is another trend that is likely to make the Liberals uncomfortable — a new wave of outmigration underway right now.

According to Statistics Canada, beginning in 2011 more Canadians left B.C. than moved here. For the 2011-2012 year — the last numbers available, nearly 5,000 people left for other provinces.

University graduate Aaron Lind says he is packing up and leaving B.C. because he was unable to make a living in Vancouver. (CBC)

Aaron Lind is part of this new wave of people leaving the province. He's a university graduate in history and political science who couldn't make ends meet in his field in Vancouver.

"I'm moving to Saskatchewan, because that's where I'm from. I have a great network there. I can live for free with my parents, eat some humble pie and save some money. That's the game plan," Lind told the Reality Check team.

"The people of my generation aren't foolish. Stronger economy and job creation are meaningless buzzwords. You can talk all you want about job creation, but when the jobs are seasonal, or low paying or come without benefits, long-term you are doing more harm than good."

Spinning the truth

So to sum up, the Reality Check team has concluded there is some truth to the claim that in the late 1990's (when Adrian Dix was with the NDP government) 50,000 people did leave B.C for other provinces.

But it can't be proven that they all left to find work. That's because Statistics Canada doesn't measure why they left. Some of those 50,000 were retirees, and children leaving with their families.

And looking at the 1990's as a whole, the reverse was true, the figures show.

So the Reality Check team finds the B.C. Liberal Party's claim is full of spin.

With files from the CBC's Steve Lus