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BC population grew in 1990s despite Clark's claim

To hear Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark tell it, British Columbia depopulated the last time the New Democratic Party formed a government.

That assertion appears to be true only with a careful selection of facts.

“Do you remember that 50,000 people fled this province the last time the NDP were in power?” Clark said at her campaign launch Dec. 8. “Do you remember what they did to our economy? . . . Do you remember when your kids couldn't find a job and they had to leave the province? Do you remember when you couldn't find a job and you had to leave the province?”

Later, scrumming with reporters, she cited the same figure, but clarified it slightly: “50,000 people, 50,000, fled the province in the last five years of the NDP, fled the province because they couldn't find work.”

However, the province's population actually grew by 702,000 people between 1991 and 2001, according to figures from Statistics Canada, quoted by B.C. Stats. Starting at 3.4 million population in 1991, that's 21 percent growth in the decade.

And between 1996 and 2001—the last five years of NDP government—the population grew by 201,947.

The only way to get Clark's figure is to consider net interprovincial migration alone, disregarding people who came to British Columbia from outside Canada, births and deaths.

Even then it depends which years are included.

In every year between 1991 and 1997 there were net gains from other provinces, followed by net losses every year between 1998 and 2002. Since 2003 there have again been gains.

From 1998 to 2001, 51,745 more people went to other provinces from B.C. than came, according to a B.C. Stats table, making Clark factually correct.

But from 1991 to 1997, the seven years after the NDP formed government, the province actually gained 189,414 people from other provinces.

Over the NDP's time in government, therefore, there was a net gain of 137,669 people through interprovincial migration.

And even in the years when people moved to other provinces, the losses were more than offset by international immigration and natural increases. In 1998, for example, B.C. lost a net of 17,521 people to other provinces, the biggest outflow since 1991. That same year, however, there were 15,094 more births than deaths in B.C. and the province welcomed 24,380 immigrants from outside Canada.

The provincial population actually grew by 21,953 people in the year where there was the biggest outflow to other provinces.

As for the broader question of whether the NDP destroyed the provincial economy, The Tyee's Will McMartin's analysis in 2009 found the economy actually grew faster under the NDP than the Liberals.

B.C. population, 1991 to 2010:

1991 – 3,373,787

1992 – 3,468,802

1993 – 3,567,772

1994 – 3,676,075

1995 – 3,777,390

1996 – 3,874,317

1997 – 3,948,583

1998 – 3,983,113

1999 – 4,011,375

2000 – 4,039,230

2001 – 4,076,264

2002 – 4,098,178

2003 – 4,122,396

2004 – 4,155,170

2005 – 4,196,788

2006 – 4,243,580

2007 – 4,309,632

2008 – 4,383,860

2009 – 4,460,292

2010 – 4,530,960

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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