Saskatchewan's population has declined, albeit by a small margin, for the first time in nearly a decade and a half.
Recent Statistics Canada estimates showed Saskatchewan's population total now sits at 1,178,681, declining from 1,179,618 earlier this year. This represents the first population drop in 14 years.
Patrick Charbonneau, a senior analyst with Statistics Canada, said interprovincial migration is partly behind the reduction. The Saskatchewan Quarterly Population report showed that 4,531 people moved to Saskatchewan while 7,406 people left, for a net loss of 2,874 people.
"That would be a trend that is ongoing. It's not new, but it has kind of intensified in the most recent quarters," Charbonneau said.
He said more people from Saskatchewan are going to Alberta than any other province. The report said people moving to Alberta accounted for 40.63 per cent of out-migration and 38.98 per cent of in-migration in Saskatchewan's April to June numbers.
When asked about the population decline, Sask. Party Leader Scott Moe said fluctuations were to be expected.
He said it was important to note the province and the country are in the midst of a pandemic and that he expects the population to grow once things have normalized thanks to how Saskatchewan has performed economically.
"We have had a tremendous 10-year growth spurt," Moe said. "That's something we want to continue."
Moe said population growth is something he always felt had a "simple recipe for success" in Saskatchewan. He said job, career and opportunity creation would lead more people to move to the province.
In 2012 the government set a population target of 1.2 million for 2020. Last year, the government announced its goal of increasing the population by a further 226,000 people by 2030.
Trent Wotherspoon, the Saskatchewan NDP's candidate for the Regina-Rosemont riding who previously served as the finance critic, said a decline in population means Saskatchewan people are experiencing real hardships.
"It's a real concern to see workers and young people having to leave Saskatchewan in pursuit of employment, in pursuit of opportunity," he said.
"That's a real hard thing for those workers and it's a real hard thing for their families as well."
Wotherspoon called for more job creation in the construction industry via the elimination of PST on construction labour and more Saskatchewan-based procurement for projects in Saskatchewan.
Changes in international numbers
Charbonneau said that although population growth declined over the previous three-month period, Saskatchewan's population is still higher than it was last year.
He said Saskatchewan has increased a lot on net international migration over the last 10 years, even though it has declined over the last quarter
There were 734 people who became Saskatchewan residents via international migration from April to June of this year. Over the same three-month period in 2019, net international migration accounted for an increase of 4,444 people.
Charbonneau said declines in international migration are being seen across Canada, mainly due to COVID-19.
"International migration… is usually the main driver of Canada's population growth, but the restrictions on international borders in mid-March had a significant impact on this factor," Statistics Canada's website said.