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More Ontarians call Saskatchewan home

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TORONTO—Shalini Rajeshwaran laughs when she remembers her friends’ reactions when she told them a few months ago about moving to Saskatchewan—a province often characterized as a flat, boring place with endless wheat fields and bone-chillingly cold.

“Oh my God, you’re crazy,” the 23-year-old mechanical engineer from Toronto recalled her friends saying.

But now, a few months into her engineering job in Regina, suddenly her friends don’t think she is so crazy anymore. They’re sending résumés to Rajeshwaran so she can slip them to her human resources department at work.

In fact, it turns out a lot of people in Ontario shared Rajeshwaran’s instincts.

Recently-released figures from Statistics Canada show 920 Ontario residents decided to leave the province in the last three months of 2008 to call Saskatchewan home.

At a time when Ontario’s economy is tanking and losing thousands of jobs every month, analysts forecast job growth this year in the Prairie province.

For Rajeshwaran, there were fears her days as a quality engineer at the Ford plant in Oakville, Ont. were numbered.

“I knew that the automotive industry wasn’t going to do too well,” Rajeshwaran said. “I knew that layoffs were going to happen.”

Armed with her degree from the University of Windsor, Rajeshwaran’s job hunt kicked into high gear. For months, however, she found nothing.

“I really exhausted my search in Toronto,” she noted. “I really couldn’t get anything stable or anything in my field.”

Relatives in Calgary suggested she start looking west. That encouragement, coupled with a career fair in Toronto in September filled with recruiters from Saskatchewan, convinced Rajeshwaran to accept a job as an engineer with Consumers’ Co-operative Refineries Ltd. in Regina.

Though it’s only been a few months, Rajeshwaran doesn’t regret her decision to leave Toronto.

“I have no complaints, aside from the weather. That’s the only complaint I have,” she chuckled in a telephone interview from her Regina office.

Brandon Gorr, a recent civil engineering graduate from Ottawa, had a similarly frustrating job search in the East. He sent dozens of résumés to firms in his hometown along with Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax last year.

“I kept pounding on the doors but nothing,” said Gorr, 23.

In the late fall, Gorr decided to look west. By January, he had packed up and moved to Regina to work at Walker Projects Inc., a company that provides engineering and project management for construction projects.

These dead-of-winter moves—when the average temperature in Regina is minus-16 C—is what amazes Chris Jones-Bonk, one of the Saskatchewan government recruiters who visited Toronto last week.

“That’s significant for us because we’re into the winter months and people are still moving,” said Jones-Bonk, manager of marketing and communications for Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour.

In all, 2,415 people moved to Saskatchewan from Ontario last year, figures from Statistics Canada show.

Leading up to last week’s two-day visit, Ontario’s opposition parties accused Saskatchewan of “poaching” the best and brightest.

Although the Prairie politicians say they don’t like the term, they also wouldn’t apologize for their efforts. For decades, people from Saskatchewan moved to other parts of Canada, Premier Brad Wall told reporters last week in Toronto.

“We’ve been very generous with sharing our citizens with the rest of our country; we’d like them to come home,” he remarked.

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