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Migration and immigration changing Vancouver into "city of strangers"

Vancouver is a city of immigrants and outsiders, and any political party that can't engage them will lose out, according to demographic studies by  Andrew Yan, a researcher at the research and development division of Bing Thom Architects (BTA).

“We’re a city of strangers,” Yan said, adding that political parties will have to “learn to bridge, as opposed to bunkering themselves out of one particular neighborhood or one particular group.”


“Political parties need to think of themselves as lighthouses that shine on urban issues and concerned with how they will govern rather than clubhouses focused on their special interests and obsessed with how they will rule.”

The demographic research is telling. According BTA Works research, Vancouver has the lowest portion of local residents who were born within the province, compared to other major metropolitan areas in Canada.  Vancouver's beauty and quality of life attracts migration from other parts of Canada, as well as immigration from around the world.

If you talk to people in Montreal, three out of four will have been born in the province of Quebec, he said. In Ottawa, tha figure is significantly lower, but still a majority at 60 per cent. In Toronto, that number drops to under half, with 46 per cent of Torontonians being born within Ontario – in Calgary, that figure falls to 44 per cent. In Metro Vancouver, just 41 per cent of residents were born in B.C.

In Vancouver, studies show that just one in three were born in the province of their residence.

Metropolitan Region

Born in Province of Residence

Total

%

Metro Montreal

 2,676,965

3,588,520

75%

Metro Ottawa

669,250

1,117,125

60%

Metro Toronto

 2,345,290

 5,072,075

46%

Metro Calgary

472,085

1,070,295

44%

Metro Vancouver

858,815

2,097,960

41%

 

 

 

 

Selected Metro Vancouver Cities

Born in Province of Residence

Total

%

Richmond

51,750

173,570

30%

Vancouver

188,740

571,600

33%

Burnaby

70,105

200,855

35%

Coquitla

49,450

113,560

44%

Surrey

175,135

392,450

45%

Abbotsford

62,590

122,175

51%

Port Coquitlam

27,310

52,230

52%

Langley (Township)

12,325

23,335

53%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 97-557-XCB2006015 (Canada, Code01)

What do those statistics that mean? It means that the population is from everywhere else from Winnipeg to Ireland to Hong Kong and may not be fully aware of the histories of Vancouver or British Columbia and all trying to find their way here.

But according to Yan, it's not a new issue. It's a continuation of an old story, he said, noting that the City and the region has always been dependent on large money flows from somewhere else from Great Britain to Eastern Canada, and now it is moving in from Asia.

Take a wealthy neighbourhood like Shaughnessy: today, 37.2 per cent of the area is Chinese, according to a Vancouver Sun map based on Canada Census data. 

While many are long-term residents with strong roots in Vancouver, others are relative newcomers. For many, that means that mentioning a big political name or a well-known political figure from 20 years ago isn't likely to ring a bell for many locals. 

“When a person lacks a history and the economic, social, or cultural conditions of the City inhibits many people to develop deep roots in Vancouver, how do you build your City up?” Yan asked. 

In some ways, Vision Vancouver has been able to better adapt to the structural changes in Vancouver compared to older parties such as the NPA or COPE, Yan said. 

"Vancouver used to be a city of homeowners, and now it's 50-50 (homeowners and renters)," he said. "Rather than unicultural, Vancouver has become defined by its cultural plurality. While the majority of Vancouverites used to be from the province, the vast majority are now from outside the province."  

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