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Canada is getting bigger

2016 StatsCan census data shows Canada’s population is increasing, urbanizing, and moving West

Canada is getting pretty big

Canada’s population is on the rise, especially in Western provinces, according to 2016 census data released by Statistics Canada today.  

Remember back in May 2016 when you kept getting reminders in the mail to complete your census form? Well, today’s numbers are the first of seven data sets from the 2016 census, set to be released over the course of the year. Today’s release focused on population changes and migratory movements — in May, we’ll see data on age and sex in Canada.

Source: Statistics Canada

Between 2011 and 2016, Canada’s population grew five percent, from 33.5 million to 35.1 million people, a slight decrease in the population growth that took place between 2006 and 2011. Still, Canada remained the fastest growing country in the G7, and the eighth fastest growing country in the G20, surpassed unsurprisingly by the likes of Indonesia, India, Turkey and Mexico, among others.

What’s important to note is that much of this population growth came from migration into Canada, as opposed to a natural increase (different between the number of births and deaths). In fact, Statistics Canada projects that this trend will continue in the coming years, a combination of the low rate at which Canadians are having kids, and our aging population.

The only province to buck that fertility trend was Nunavut, which has the highest fertility level in Canada, at 2.9 children per woman. Unsurprisingly, Nunavut recorded the highest rate of population growth among all provinces and territories in Canada.

Western lure

Despite entering year three of an oil recession, which is likely to go down as the most severe the province has ever experienced, more people seemed to move into Alberta than out. It recorded the fastest population growth rate of all provinces in the last five years, at 11.6 percent, more than double the national average. It is possible that much of that gain in growth came from the 2011-2013 period, prior to the crash in oil prices, when the oil sector was still on a hiring binge.

Worth pointing out is the fact that Manitoba’s population increased a healthy 5.8 percent, and most of that was due to strong international migration. It’s the first time in eighty years that the province has recorded a population growth higher than the national average.

Source: Statistics Canada

This “move West” trend is actually not new. Data from the 2012 Statistics Canada census showed a similar progression — interprovincial and international migration into the prairies, driven by oil sector jobs, and a lower cost of living compared to urban centres in the East like Toronto and Montreal.

As a result of continued population growth over the last decade, almost one-third of Canadians now live in the four western provinces of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — the largest share on record.

Canadians and the City

One-third of Canadians reside in the three largest cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Toronto has the largest population of urban dwellers (almost six million), followed by Montreal, which according to census data, surpassed the four million mark for the first time in census history.

While Toronto’s population saw a pretty significant growth rate of 6.2 percent, turns out Calgary is the city of choice for the bulk of Canadians — it’s population grew almost 15 percent in the last five years.

Another interesting pattern in this year’s census data was the narrowing population gap between suburban and urban dwellers. Canadians, it seems, particularly young professionals and aging baby boomers retiring from the workforce, are choosing to ditch the traditional white picket fence lifestyle, in favour of condo-living.

Just to give you a sense of how much Canadians love city-dwelling, 82 percent of the Canadian population live in large and medium-sized cities, one of the highest concentrations of urban dwellers among G7 nations.

As this country slowly shifts away from its economic dependence on agriculture towards a more service-based economy, jobs will naturally tend to concentrate in city centres. Cooperation among federal, provincial and municipal governments when it comes to infrastructure investment in key areas like health and public transit is crucial to ensure that the quality of life in Canadian cities does not decline as its population spikes.

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