Leaving Canada: Housing Costs, Falling Living Standards, and Politics Prompt Outflow of Canadians

Leaving Canada: Housing Costs, Falling Living Standards, and Politics Prompt Outflow of Canadians
People line up to go through security screening at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Aug. 5, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)
Adam Brown

An increasing number of Canadians can’t afford a house or find a decent-paying job. Some can’t find a date or are fed up with the bitter politics, while others are in search of adventure, are sick of the cold winters, or simply miss home. The solution they seek? Leave Canada.

The rising cost of living, record-high immigration, a stagnating economy, and political tensions are prompting rising numbers of Canadians—both native and naturalized—to leave the country.

Canada is increasingly becoming a country of emigrants, as well as a country of immigrants, experts say.

“We’re definitely seeing a lot more interest from people wanting to leave Canada,” Michael Rosmer, founder of Offshore Citizen, a Dubai-based company that offers relocation services to people around the globe, told The Epoch Times. “This is disproportionate to their numbers overall.”

He said many of his clients are motivated by the increasing ability to work from anywhere, plus political tensions within Canada accompanied by a feeling of lost freedoms. Also a factor is the rising standard of living of many countries that were once far below Canada in terms of health care, education, and other services.

While Canada was once considered among the best places in the world to live, “it’s like the world has flipped,” Mr. Rosmer said. “The alternatives have gotten meaningfully better. Today if you go to Kuala Lumpur you’re going to find that it is arguably better than any Canadian city.”

Some 94,576 people emigrated from Canada from mid-2022 to mid-2023, an increase of 1.8 percent from 92,876 in the year-earlier period, and up sharply from 66,627 in the period from mid-2020 to mid-2021, which fell during the pandemic lockdowns, according to data from Statistics Canada.

A study released last year by the immigration advocacy group Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) showed  immigrants are also increasingly reluctant to stay, with the proportion who stick around to obtain full citizenship within 10 years of receiving permanent resident status plunging to 45.7 percent in 2021 from 60 percent in 2016 and 75.1 percent in 2001.
Cameron MacDonald, a 29-year-old from the Niagara Falls region of Ontario who left Canada in March for Japan, cited the high cost of living as the main reason for his move, which uprooted him from friends, family, and a job as an anti-fraud analyst with a major Canadian bank. He is now studying Japanese and looking for a job with a foreign firm, while living in Tokyo, which has a population density of 6,363 people per square kilometre compared to Toronto’s 4,427.8 per square kilometre.

“Here in Tokyo, the world’s biggest city, I pay $650 a month for a room that I would have had to pay $2,000 for in Toronto,” Mr. MacDonald told The Epoch Times. “I had a routine and a cushy bank job and I was even living with my dad after a while but I still couldn’t get ahead financially.”

He said the high cost of housing in Toronto means that all of his friends of a similar age in Canada are still living with their parents and, as many of them consider starting families, they are watching his move with the thought of moving abroad themselves.

“My five-year goal includes a wife, a house, and kids and there’s no way I could afford that in Canada,” Mr. MacDonald said. “You can’t really date and find a wife when you’re living with your dad.”

“In Japan, I wake up with a smile on my face every day,” he said. “It’s like I have found a new passion—I can start a family here.

High Immigration

Like many people, Mr. MacDonald blames Canada’s rapid pace of immigration for driving up the cost of living and forcing him to move abroad.
As of Oct. 1, 2023, Canada’s population was estimated at 40,528,396, a record increase of 430,635 people in the previous three months alone, according to Statistics Canada. That growth rate, at 1.1 percent in a quarter, was the highest since 1957, amid Canada’s baby boom plus an immigration surge fuelled by a refugee crisis in Hungary at the time.
In just the first nine months of last year, Canada’s population grew by 1,030,378 people, more than any other year dating back to confederation in 1867, the statistics show. And 96 percent of that growth came from immigration. Overall, the population grew 30 percent since it reached the 30 million figure in 1997.
Indeed, rapid population growth has outstripped economic growth in recent years, lowering the standard of living in Canada as more people compete for less housing space and place greater strains on health care, education, and other services, according to a study published in May by the Fraser Institute. The study shows Canada’s real gross domestic product per person dropped 3 percent between April 2019 and the end of last year, from $59,905 to $58,111. The only steeper drops in the 40 years covered by the study were from 1989 to 1994, with a decline of 5.3 percent, and the financial crisis of 2008 to 2009, when it dropped 5.2 percent.

Another factor propelling emigration may be the aging of the baby boomer generation. As more Canadians reach retirement age, emigration to the United States, particularly to sunny states such as Florida, is accelerating.

A study by Statistics Canada also shows that high immigration tends to push up emigration because some immigrants move back to their home country. The study showed that 15 percent of the people who immigrated to Canada between 1982 and 2017 returned within 20 years of admission.

Whatever the root cause, the interest in leaving Canada has caught the attention of the global industry of specialists offering services to wealthier emigrants around the world.

Videos created by people seeking to offer second-passport services and other relocation help are growing in popularity. “Nine Steps to Escape Canada,” a YouTube video watched 362,000 times, “5 Reasons to Leave Canada in 2024,“ watched by 261,000 and ”Canada is Dying!,” with 531,000 viewers are some of the most popular.

Jay Suresh, the founder of Goodlife Investor, which offers emigration services to people around the world looking to obtain second passports, foreign tax advantages, and other benefits, says the number of Canadians looking for dual citizenship jumped after the Canadian government banned unvaccinated people from flying or travelling by train in late 2021 until the summer of 2022.

“This was an eye-opener for a lot of people. They got frustrated with just that one citizenship and they wanted multiple citizenships,” he said in a video promoting his company. Now, he says, Canadians are nearly tied with U.S. citizens in searches for second passports, even though the United States has 10 times Canada’s population.