Population growth in B.C.

By Todd Coyne, Vancouver SunJune 29, 2010

The population of Canada has surpassed 34 million, and British Columbia again has the highest rate of growth among the provinces.

According to new Statistics Canada figures, B.C.’s population grew by 16,626 people in the first four months of the year, bringing the total to 4,510,858 residents.

The largest driver of this immigration boom?

Chinese investors.

According to the B.C. government’s most current statistics, Asian immigrants made up nearly three-quarters of new arrivals to B.C. in 2009 (29,455 of 41,434).

Of these, 9,375 were Chinese, ranking China well ahead of second-place India‘s 6,078 immigrants and the third-place Philippines‘ 4,623.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is that well over a third of these Chinese immigrants — 3,977, to be exact — are categorized as financial investors.

Compare this with the 101 Chinese immigrants classified as entrepreneurs.

Or the mere 42 and 64 investors from India and the Philippines, respectively, and a picture begins to emerge of a new kind of migrant to Canada’s West Coast.

According to Henry Yu, an associate professor of history at the University of B.C. who specializes in Chinese immigration, the new wave of Chinese investors are, in fact, coming more for lifestyle reasons than investment opportunities.

“I’ll tell you: What they’re not coming here to do is to make a lot of money. It’s very hard to make money in Vancouver compared to, say, Shanghai or Beijing,” said Yu.

“So even though government programs may be opening doors to them as business investors, it’s not actually a great place to invest to make high returns.”

It is a good place, however, for economic and social stability, higher education, and a better quality of life, Yu said.

According to Yu, although most of the Chinese investors coming to B.C. are still chiefly wealthy, business-oriented men, they are turning their backs on China’s booming economy, opting instead for “the good life” in the Lower Mainland.

And, when they can, they’re bringing their families.

“During earlier waves you had a different set of ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, and these were very different people that were coming in the late ’80s, early ’90s because they wanted to basically have a way out … in case things went sour after the handover.

“And they stopped coming, basically, in 1997.”

According to Yu, those who are still coming to Canada with ambitions of wealth are bypassing Vancouver and heading for Toronto.