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Census Proves Canadians Are City Dwellers

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 19 March 2002 00:00

It's official. Canadians are an urban lot, in spite of the countrified image that has stuck with us through the last two centuries. Not only are there more of us, but we're packed into only a small fraction of Canada's vast physical area and our government and funding systems do not reflect this evolution into an urban Canada.

Canada's Census Impacts Ownership Options " and announced that 79.4 percent of Canadians lived in an urban centre in 2001, up from 78.6 in 1996 when the last Census was taken. In fact, just over 64 percent of Canada's population, or about 19, 297,000 people, is concentrated in 27 urban areas. Montreal ranks number one in packing them in at 5,590 people per square kilometre, followed by Vancouver at 4,758 and Toronto at 3, 939. This means 51 percent of Canadians are crowded into four broad urban regions:

  • Niagara Peninsula and Greater Toronto Area in southern Ontario
  • Montreal and environs
  • British Columbia's Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, and
  • Alberta's Calgary-Edmonton corridor

In the 10 months since the Census, urban growth continues full steam. The Census confirmed the City of Mississauga near Toronto as the seventh largest city, but Mississauga officials claim their city has since surpassed sixth-place Winnipeg's population. Mississauga issued 3,991 new building permits compared to Winnipeg's 954!

Canada is growing into a very different country from the one that created the laws that currently direct governments and determine funding patterns. The growing unrest in Ontario where the GTA struggles under financial restrictions set when it was just another city will be fueled by Census figures. Things may finally come to a head with significant changes to where Toronto gets its money and how it wields its power within the province.

The Census figures for your area will be used to determine many aspects of federal, provincial and municipal funding that will all impact on your life and your home. For more details from the Census, read Stats Can's report, "A profile of the Canadian population: Where we live ."

With birth rates on the decline, interprovincial migration and immigration drive population change. Immigration accounted for more than half of the population growth between 1996 and 2001. More than 50 percent of immigrants arriving over the past 5 years settled in Ontario, particularly in the GTA where they boosted the population by nearly 2 percent each year. Most of the balance chose Montreal and Vancouver. Attracting immigrants will be increasingly crucial to sustaining growth as our population ages.

Although some regions are bursting at the seams and we've topped 30 million, growth rates have decelerated in every province except Alberta, which surged by 10.3 percent. Resource-based economies, such as northern Ontario and Quebec, declined although Alberta's oil patch attracted newcomers. Numbers in rural and small town areas are down 0.4 percent. Still our overall growth rate is well above that of many other developed countries. All indications are this urbanized centralization will continue for a while, so how will this affect your property taxes and value of your real estate?

FYI: Throughout the following months, Statistics Canada will release further data from the 2001 Census. However, it won't be until early in 2003 that it completes analysis of how accurate the Census was at finding and counting all Canadians. After adjusting for net under-enumeration in 1996, the population estimate for Canada was increased by 2.6%, so there may be more than 30,007,094 of us out there.

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