Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia's population has been steadily growing — but a Halifax community planner expects the trend to change post-pandemic.
"It would be a really big mistake to try to form an expectation of the future based on just what has happened through the COVID times,” Neil Lovitt, vice president of planning and economic intelligence at Turner Drake and Partners, said. “This has been a very strange year in a number of ways, in terms of people moving around.”
According to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Treasury Board, the province's population has been increasing mostly due to immigration and interprovincial migration.
In January 2021, Nova Scotia's population reached 979,449 — the province's highest population on record.
In the second quarter of 2020, which covers April 1 to June 30, Nova Scotia saw 5,602 people move to the province from other parts of Canada.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, which covers Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2,620 people moved to Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada.
“There’s really kind of two sides of that coin,” Lovitt told NEWS 95.7's The Rick Howe Show.
In the second quarter of 2020, 4,159 people left Nova Scotia for another province; that number was 1,918 in the fourth quarter.
In terms of net interprovincial migration, Nova Scotia saw 1,443 people added to its population in the second quarter of 2020. In the fourth quarter, that number was 702.
Lovitt said the province has seen a significant decrease in the number of people who leave Nova Scotia for somewhere else in Canada.
“That’s been going for a couple of years, but especially with the pandemic, that really put a damper on a lot of people’s movement plans for obvious reasons,” he said. “So, that I think has been the bigger piece of the overall impact, that we’re actually keeping more people in at least over the last year.
“Whoever else we get moving into the province in addition to that just adds to the pressure."
Most of the people migrating to Nova Scotia are coming from Ontario; the second province is Alberta.
Lovitt said many issues the province has seen with its housing market and population trends come from a culmination of longer-term trends
He said that includes annually losing a large number of Nova Scotia's working population — more than 4,000 or the population of Antigonish — to Alberta when the oil industry was booming.
“That has completely dried up,” he said. “So, a penny saved is a penny earned.”
The increase in Nova Scotia's population has largely affected the province's real estate market. In 2020, real estate prices continued to climb while inventory continued to drop in Nova Scotia.
But post-pandemic, Lovitt said the current trends of Nova Scotia's real estate market and other Canadians migrating to the province likely won't continue.
“What is less known, I guess I would say, is all of the temporary strange behaviour that people have been engaging in because of the conditions of the pandemic, and how much of that is a permanent change versus something that maybe fizzles out as we get back to normal life,” he said. “How many people, once the office reopens on Bay Street (in Toronto), are really going to be looking to relocate so significantly to a different province?
“Once things come back to more or less a sense of normalcy, we would expect to see a lot of those trends return to their pre-pandemic baseline. So, I would not at all be surprised to see out-migration from the province in the years coming to come back to that longer-term trend."