Nova Scotia : Why Are So Many People Moving Here?

Richard Payne
Published on October 23, 2023

Nova Scotia : Why Are So Many People Moving Here?


Nova Scotia always had a modest growth, with no real highs or lows unlike other Canadian provinces. It was known for having a predictable and slower pace of life with stagnant in migration.

Half of the population of Nova Scotians live in Halifax. Back in 2015, just 956 new immigrants arrived in Halifax, 8000 landed two years later and 10,000 in 2019. The pandemic changed everything for Nova Scotia.

A previously unheard of in-migration took hold.

The pandemic prompted many Canadians to rethink where they want to live and build their lives, and with remote working being an option for many employers, Canadians started to move away from major cities and provinces for a safer, more affordable environment. Our once stagnant growth was about to change dramatically. Halifax is currently the second fastest growing City in Canada.

Why is this?

There are likely several key reasons for this growth.

Nova Scotia has always been deemed to be a “have-not” province with a declining population and growth rates near the bottom of Canada’s largest cities. Many people never really expected this to change although many immigrants who moved here, just could not understand why. Halifax in particular offers a good quality of life, close to the ocean, a strong tech scene, several great universities, a military presence, well priced real estate (although certainly not as much of a bargain as it once was). All it really needed was people.

As early as 2016, the Mayor of Halifax in conjunction with Halifax Partnership started to actively champion Halifax to the world, with the hopes of increasing the population of Halifax to 550,000 by 2031. We are currently at 480,000 (2022 Stats Can) and it seemed to be successful with positive in migration from 2016 onwards.

Then the pandemic hit.

Not to be deterred, the Nova Scotia Government ran a very successful Work from Home ad campaign that began in December 2020 and ended March 31 2021. Its goal was to target remote workers in larger Canadian cities to move to Nova Scotia and focused predominantly on Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary.

This campaign attracted just over 531,000 inquiries during this period, including people from within Canada who were looking for a new place to live because their job now allowed them to work remotely. Nova Scotia’s affordability and slower pace of life suddenly began to appeal to a lot of people who wanted to get out of the rat race of big city living.

Additionally, there have been ongoing changes to Federal Immigration policies which have been strong drivers of Nova Scotia growth. Interprovincial migration has increased every year since 2015.

The most immediate impact of this growth is to housing and rental prices

Peoples desire to live in Nova Scotia has forced competition and prices like we have never seen before. For over two years, Nova Scotia real estate boomed with many homes selling sight unseen and well above asking, mostly to Ontario buyers.

These buyers were generally coming from markets across Canada where prices were already high. They were often in a strong position as they sell their homes for top dollar with big amounts of equity being built up over the years. This put them in a position to move here and potentially buy their dream home outright and live mortgage free.

This boom, not just in the major Halifax Regional Municipality area but all around Nova Scotia, resulted in dramatic price increases across the province and a lot of frustrated local buyers who are continuing to struggle to get on the property ladder.

Although thousands of housing units have been approved for construction in Halifax, only 3,000 new units were built in 2022. Coupled that with high mortgage interest rates, high rents, a shortage of rental units, and affordable housing and you have the perfect storm for the current housing crisis we find ourselves in. Tent cities are a new developement in the City’s landscape, and at the last count there were approximately 30, some sanctioned by the city, others not. Many people are living pay check to pay check and the overall cost of living has increased dramatically. 

As a province, Nova Scotia has so much going for it.   And it seems that our “secret” is finally out as people are starting to realise what a gem this province is. Sure, it’s far from perfect. The massive growth has brought a whole host of social and economic issues. We pay a premium to live here but as far as I’m concerned, the positives of living here far outweigh the negatives.

And despite the consequences right now, growth is what Nova Scotia needs. Attracting newcomers is certainly not a problem any more and the diversity of people moving here is positive. Less workers leaving the province to work elsewhere and immigrants moving here from other provinces and contributing to Nova Scotia’s economic recovery is surely a good thing?  

I’m happy Nova Scotia is growing, are you? I’d love to hear your comments!      

Resources and further reading:

Nova Scotia Data and Research

Stats Canada Census Profile

Develop Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Business inc.

Tourism Nova Scotia

Halifax Partnership

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