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2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006: Subprovincial population dynamics

Vast majority of Canada's population growth is concentrated in large metropolitan areas

Since 2001, the population of Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs - see box) grew by 1.4 million, which represents nearly 90% of the 1.6 million increase in the country's total population over that period.

Reference map: Census metropolitan areas and mid-size urban centres, 2006

The rate of growth among CMAs was well above the national average, reflecting their demographic vitality. Since 2001, the larger metropolitan areas have experienced population growth of 6.9%, compared with 5.4% for Canada as a whole.

This photograph is a panorama of downtown Toronto, dominated by the CN Tower.In 2006, more than two-thirds (68%) of the population lived in one of the 33 census metropolitan areas. That represents 21.5 million Canadians. Of these, 14.1 million lived in one of the six metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa - Gatineau and, for the first time, Calgary and Edmonton.

Table 3 Population of census metropolitan areas in 2006

Together, those six “millionaire's club” areas were home to nearly half (45%) of all Canadians. Toronto, which passed the 5 million mark for the first time, remained the most populous CMA, followed by Montréal and Vancouver.

A census metropolitan area (CMA) is an area with a population of at least 100,000, including an urban core with a population of at least 50,000. Canada now has 33 CMAs, up from 27 in 2001. The six new CMAs are Barrie, Guelph, Brantford and Peterborough in Ontario; Moncton in New Brunswick and Kelowna in British Columbia.

Six of the fastest-growing CMAs are in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Between 2001 and 2006, fifteen census metropolitan areas had a higher rate of population growth than the national average. Of these, six are in southern Ontario and located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region: Barrie (+19.2%), Oshawa (+11.6%), Toronto (+9.2%), Kitchener (+8.9%), Guelph (+8.2%) and Brantford (+5.5%). Barrie is the fastest-growing CMA since 2001, as its population increased nearly four times more rapidly than the national average.

Alberta's two CMAs, Calgary and Edmonton, also experienced vigorous growth since 2001. Calgary's population grew by 13.4% between 2001 and 2006, the second-highest growth rate among CMAs. Edmonton was the fourth fastest-growing CMA in the country (+10.4%).

This photograph shows a view of the city of Edmonton.The rapid population growth in Alberta's two CMAs is attributable to the economic boom that the province has enjoyed for a number of years. The buoyancy of the province's job market has attracted many workers from the rest of Canada, and large numbers of them have settled in the two major metropolitan areas. Immigration and relatively high fertility have also been significant factors in Calgary's and Edmonton's population boom.

Figure 6 Population growth of census metropolitan areas, 1996 to 2001 and 2001 to 2006

British Columbia's four CMAs (Vancouver, Victoria, Abbotsford and Kelowna) also outpaced the national rate of population growth between 2001 and 2006. Immigration continued to benefit Vancouver and accounted for more than half of the growth experienced by its neighbouring CMAs, Victoria and Abbotsford.

Sherbrooke is the only CMA located entirely in Quebec whose growth rate (+6.3%) was above the national average. It grew twice as fast as in the 1996 to 2001 period. Much of the increase is due to larger gains since 2001 in its migration exchanges with the rest of the province.

The Ottawa - Gatineau CMA (+5.9%), which straddles the Quebec-Ontario border, also had a population growth rate slightly above the national average in the 2001 to 2006 period. The Quebec part of the CMA, Gatineau, grew faster (+8.5%) than the Ontario portion, Ottawa (+5.0%). Gatineau's higher growth rate is largely attributable to migration gains at Ottawa's expense, as many residents moved from the Ontario part of the CMA to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River between 2001 and 2006.

This photograph shows the city of Moncton.Moncton is the only CMA in the Atlantic provinces whose growth rate (+6.5%) was above the national average (+5.4%). Between 2001 and 2006, it even became New Brunswick's most populous metropolitan area, surpassing Saint John.

The population of the St. John's (+4.7%), Trois-Rivières (+2.9%), Sudbury (+1.7%), Thunder Bay (+0.8%) and Regina (+1.1%) CMAs increased since 2001, after declining in the previous intercensal period. All of these CMAs experienced an improvement in their net migration levels, especially their exchanges with other parts of their respective provinces. There was also a slight increase in the number of international immigrants who settled in Trois-Rivières compared with the previous period.

Since the population of the St. John's, Regina and Saskatoon CMAs increased in the last five years, the rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan were mainly responsible for the decline in the provinces' population since 2001.

Only two CMAs experienced population losses between 2001 and 2006: Saint John, New Brunswick, and Saguenay, Quebec (-0.2% and -2.1% respectively). Both areas also had population declines between the 1996 and 2001 censuses. Net losses in migration exchanges with the rest of the country, combined with low or even negative natural increase, caused the population to shrink. However, the decline was smaller between 2001 and 2006 than in the previous intercensal period.

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