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2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex: Subprovincial population dynamics

The suburbs of census metropolitan areas are younger than the downtown areas

The increasing urbanization of Canada's population is accompanied by urban spread, a phenomenon characterized by faster population growth in the suburban areas located around metropolitan areas than in the central municipalities (see Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006: Subprovincial population dynamics: Urban spread in Canada's six largest metropolitan centres). Urban spread presents many challenges, especially in the areas of transportation, services to the public and impact on the environment.

The suburbs, or peripheral municipalities, of the country's 33 CMAs had, on average, a younger population than the central municipalities in 2006. Nearly one person in five (19.7%) was under 15 years in the peripheral municipalities, compared with 16.5% in the central municipalities. In addition, the proportion of seniors was lower in the suburbs (11.9%) than in the central municipalities (13.8%).

It is important to distinguish between census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and municipalities (census subdivisions–CSDs). A CMA usually consists of many municipalities, one of which, called the central municipality, lends its name to the CMA. For example, the Montréal CMA includes nearly 100 municipalities, such as Laval, Longueuil, La Prairie and Mirabel. The municipality of Montréal, on the island of Montréal, is the central municipality, that is, the census subdivision for which the CMA is named.

Peripheral municipalities also had a larger population of residents between 40 and 59 years of age, many of whom probably live in families with children. This kind of age structure may well be typical of neighbourhoods that are more residential and family-oriented.

Table 6 Percentage of persons aged less than 15 years and persons aged 65 years and over for central and peripheral municipalities of the 33 census metropolitan areas, 2001 and 2006

The differences between central and peripheral municipalities are particularly apparent in Canada's three largest urban centres: the Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver CMAs. The age structure of the suburbs, which closely matches the pattern just described, differs substantially from that of the central municipalities, which have a large proportion of people between 20 and 34 years. This characteristic, which affects the working-age population, larger and younger in the downtown areas, may be due to the influx of young migrants from other parts of the country and the large numbers of international immigrants.

The larger proportion of seniors in the central municipalities of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, compared with their suburbs, may be associated as well with the presence of senior residences and health services that meet the special needs of the elderly population.

The next section explains the differences between the central and peripheral municipalities in Canada's three major urban centres: the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Montréal CMA and the Vancouver CMA.

Figure 25 Age pyramid of the central and peripheral municipalities of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver CMAs in 2006

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