February 8, 2017 — The results of Canada’s 2016 census show how vital immigration has become to the country’s continued growth.
Since 2011, the country has grown by 1.7 million people, and two thirds of that growth is attributed to immigration, with the rest resulting from natural increase, or the difference between births and deaths.
Canada’s natural population growth could be nearly zero 20 years from now and, if current trends continue, immigration will make up 80 per cent of the population growth by 2031.
Deaths are catching up with births like never before as the baby boomer generation reaches older ages and fertility rates fall.
Quick Facts: Canada’s 2016 Census
Population increase since 2011: 4.8%
Population increase in 2011 census: 5.9%
Fertility rate: 1.6
Biggest city: Toronto (population: 2,731,571)
Fastest growing city: Calgary (14.6%)
Fastest growing province: Alberta (11.6%)
Only province to shrink: New Brunswick (-0.5%)
For a country’s population to renew itself, the fertility rate needs to be around 2.1 children per female aged 15 to 49. The last time Canada reached this level was 1971.
The current fertility rate is 1.6, which is actually slightly higher than a Statistics Canada estimate of 1.59 in 2014.
The only region of Canada to buck this trend is Nunavut, where the fertility rate is 2.9 and the population growth 12.7 per cent, making it the fastest-growing area of Canada. Nunavut’s population is now 35,944 people.
The May 2016 count recorded a population of 35,151,728, up 4.8 per cent on 2011, an increase of 1.7 million people.
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- Prince Edward Island Leads Way in Tackling Aging Population
- Dramatic Impact of Immigration on Canada’s Provincial Populations
Toronto remains overwhelmingly the country’s biggest city, with its 2,731,571 inhabitants beating Montreal’s 1,704,694 by more than a million. Nearly 8 per cent of Canada’s total population lives in Toronto.
Population growth has slowed by more than a percentage point since the 2011 census, which recorded an increase of 5.9 per cent. But Canada still leads all of its G7 rivals in terms of population growth.
The census also showed the continued migration of the population to the west. Alberta led the way on provincial population increase at 11.6 per cent, despite the oil slump being witnessed in the resource-rich province. Manitoba, meanwhile, saw growth of 5.8 per cent.
The top five fastest-growing urban areas were all out that way, including 14.6 per cent growth in Calgary, 13.9 per cent in Edmonton, Saskatoon (12.5 per cent) and Regina (11.8 per cent).
For the second consecutive census, Ontario lagged behind the national average with 4.6 per cent population growth, although it remains the most populous province with 13.5 million people.
The limited growth comes despite major centres like Toronto, Ottawa, Guelph and Oshawa growing at above the national average.
The Statistics Canada report shows more immigrants are being lured towards the likes of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and away form Ontario, which could be a key factor in the emerging trend.
Out east, there’s a different story. New Brunswick was the only province to decrease in size, by 0.5 per cent. Taking the Atlantic region as a whole, just 6.6 per cent of the population now lives there. In 1966, that figure was 10 per cent.
Compare that with the populations of Ontario and Quebec, which make up 61.5 per cent of the total figure despite relatively low growth recorded in the census.
The federal government is taking steps to turn this trend around, with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot set to see 2,000 extra immigrants land in the region in 2017, and possibly even more in the following two years.
Previous Immigration Minister John McCallum said one of the major challenges was in motivating immigrants to spread out around Canada.
The latest census lays the problem bare, with 83 per cent of Canada’s population now living in cities and large urban areas growing above the national average at 7.9 per cent.
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