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March 3, 2022

Macro view: British Columbia gains worker inflow during pandemic

Economists believe that the widespread adoption of telework during the pandemic, and the complete and sudden strength of net interprovincial inflows to smaller, less costly jurisdictions in Canada, have allowed many workers to take advantage of this opportunity.

Brett House

Brett House, vice president and deputy chief economist at Scotiabank, retweeted an article shared by Scotiabank Views, on the Covid-19 pandemic having proved that Canadians can work from anywhere and many are choosing British Columbia (B.C.) as their home base. Scotiabank’s senior economist Marc Desormeaux analyses the pandemic’s impact on interprovincial migration in his article, where he describes how Ontario’s out-migration pain resulted in B.C.’s gain.

Desormeaux stated that while Ontario residents were leaving the province in droves, other jurisdictions in Canada, especially B.C., have benefited the most. For B.C., which is already a top destination for interprovincial migrants in the two years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it means that interprovincial inflows of almost 35,000 people in the year to September 2021, is the largest four-quarter increase since the early 1990s.

Economists believe that while these gains are likely to ease as Covid-19 is brought under control, this could be the beginning of a major shift in Canadian interprovincial migration and that B.C. will retain its draw post-pandemic.

Desormeaux further added that B.C.’s comparative economic out-performance during the virus crisis has likely helped its draw. In 2020, B.C.’s real GDP dropped by just 3.4%, which was far better than the decline of more than 5% in Ontario, and B.C.’s 7% rate of job creation led the country. The drop in oil prices and unequal impact on Alberta’s economy contributed as well.

However, economists believe that population inflows to B.C. will be challenged by Alberta’s economic momentum that has picked pace despite the Omicron lockdowns. Ontario, on the other hand, will also continue to be an attractive destination, especially for young professionals, given its large economy, a regional financial services hub, diverse and cosmopolitan cities, and higher wages relative to the Canadian average.

Jeanna Smialek

Jeanna Smialek, federal reserve and economy reporter at The New York Times, shared an article on wage and price gaps, and whether price controls would work to stem Covid-induced inflation that is being touted by many progressive economists today, but has collected little political acceptance in the US.

Economists agree that enforcing price controls is difficult, as it requires popular acceptance, and wide government and agency personnel support. Although only a few people have offered definite proposals for price controls in response to the recent hike in inflation in the US, it is expected that economists who are exploring the idea are focusing on areas where the pandemic has disrupted supply chains.

The idea is that by introducing temporary and product-specific price caps, the government could ensure that the poor are not extorted during the pandemic. Supporters argue that lower prices would give an incentive to companies to sell as much as they can possibly produce at the specified price.

David Rothschild

David Rothschild, economist at Micro Research, and the co-founder of PredictWise, shared data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations per million people across New York, Florida, California, and Texas.

Rothschild tweeted that many people suffered and died unnecessarily in the Republican-controlled states, even after the coronavirus vaccine was widely available in the US. This  took place because people were discouraged by their leaders to get vaccinated and take safety precautions and follow Covid-19 protocols during a raging pandemic.

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