Premier says he’s committed to lowering Manitoba’s high out-migration rates

Manitoba’s premier says he’s open to changing policy in order to help stem the province’s growing interprovincial exodus. 

With statistics showing interprovincial losses have hit their highest point in more than 40 years, Wab Kinew said migration rates between provinces and territories are a key indicator of economic health — and Manitoba has to do better, the premier told a sold-out crowd at a Tuesday breakfast event hosted by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

Kinew said his NDP government will do its part, suggesting the possibility of tax credits or incentivizing economic development.

He quipped he’ll also change tires, a reference to a viral photo of him helping a stranded driver along a gravel road.

“Out-migration is the long-term trend that we’ve seen, but it’s become more pronounced in recent years,” Kinew said.

The statistics back him up. In 2022-23, the province saw a net loss of 10,246 people to interprovincial migration, according to Statistics Canada. That’s the highest deficit since 1979-80.

Net migration is the difference between the number of people entering Manitoba from other parts of Canada and those who leave for elsewhere in the country.

Immigration boosts population

Manitoba experienced a net loss of between 3,500 to 7,000 people annually for the first half of the 2010s, but that number began to grow in later years, aside from a pandemic blip that curtailed travel around the world.

On an annual basis, the province historically loses more people to interprovincial migration than it gains, but Manitoba’s population still grows consistently, mainly through immigration from other countries.

Kinew said his government can “move the needle” by growing the economy, creating more jobs, maintaining a low cost of living and extolling the draws of province’s destinations, and its arts and culture scene.

Manitoba’s competitive advantage is its affordable housing, he said.

An aerial view of a number of streets and homes.
The premier said the relative affordability of housing in Winnipeg is a selling feature for the province. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The premier said he was told by a leader from another province that “whatever you do as premier, do not let what happened in the lower mainland of British Columbia, or the 905 region [the Greater Toronto Area] of Ontario” happen in Manitoba.

He also told the business crowd that homeowners will start seeing the impact of his government’s affordability measures on their tax bills.

This year, the province is taking the education property tax rebate off property owners’ tax bills, rather than sending a rebate cheque in the mail. People who pay their taxes monthly will see the impact of that deduction every month, starting in June for property owners in Winnipeg, said Kinew.

“When you’re competing for talent across Western Canada, some people look at income tax rates, some people look at the strength of the economy — a lot of people run the numbers in terms of how much is the cost of living going to be, and I think on those terms, we can definitely put a really strong offer in front of young people,” he said.

The premier wouldn’t specify if he’s proposing any additional tax credits to bolster the province’s retention efforts.

One tax credit that Manitoba used to offer was a tuition tax rebate for post-secondary graduates who stayed in the province. The NDP policy was cancelled by the PCs in 2017.