Census in Brief
Municipalities in Canada with population decreases between 2011 and 2016

Release date: February 8, 2017

Highlights

Municipalities with at least 5,000 inhabitants

  • One in four municipalities (23%) showed a population decrease between 2011 and 2016.
  • The population of only 11% (29 of 262) of the municipalities located inside census metropolitan areas (CMAs) decreased between 2011 and 2016.
  • In comparison, the population decreased in 45% of municipalities that were located farther away from a census metropolitan area or census agglomeration.
  • Many municipalities located on the island of Montréal or close to it experienced a decrease in their population between 2011 and 2016.
  • Among the top 25 municipalities located outside CMAs and whose population decreased, 17 were located in the Atlantic provinces or Quebec.

Introduction

Over the last 15 years, the population in Canada grew the most among the G7 countries. The national growth rate, however, can often hide major regional differences. While population growth was high in many municipalities, especially those found in census metropolitan areas (CMAs), the population of many other municipalities of the country decreased during the period from 2011 to 2016.

This document highlights the municipalities in Canada, also called census subdivisions, that decreased in population between 2011 and 2016 (an area that has decreased in total population size has a negative rate of population growth). Population decreases can have important implications for people living in these municipalities. They can also be challenging for municipal policy makers responsible for delivering many of the direct services in the daily lives of Canadians, for example a decreasing population can have an impact on the tax revenues available to a municipality.

One of the goals of the Census of Population is to provide municipal policy makers and administrators with reliable data at the local level to help them plan and decide on the infrastructure and services needed for their municipality. Another document in the Census in Brief series entitled Municipalities in Canada with the largest and fastest-growing populations between 2011 and 2016 highlights the municipalities that experienced high rates of population growth over the last intercensal period. For trends at the national, provincial and territorial, and regional (census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations) levels, readers are encouraged to consult The Daily article entitled Population growth in Canada from 2011 to 2016: Key results from the 2016 Census.

Few municipalities located in census metropolitan areas show population decreases

According to the 2016 Census geographic boundaries there were 5,162 municipalities in Canada.

Of these, 723 had at least 5,000 inhabitants (either in 2011, 2016 or both years). Only municipalities with at least 5,000 inhabitants were included in this analysis in order to avoid interpreting rates of population growth that are based on small populations.

About one in four municipalities with at least 5,000 inhabitants (23%) decreased in population between 2011 and 2016. However, this proportion was much lower among the 264 municipalities of at least 5,000 inhabitants that are located in CMAs; only 29 of these (11%) decreased in population between 2011 and 2016 (Table 1).

A small proportion (12.1%) of the municipalities that were located close to a CMA or CANote 1 decreased in population between 2011 and 2016. These municipalities together also had a low rate of population decrease, at 1.9%.

A higher proportion of municipalities located in CAs (25%) or located farther away from a CMA or CA (45%) showed a population decrease. Their rates of population decrease, at 2.1% and 2.9%, were also higher than the rate in CMAs and in areas located close to a CMA or CA.

Table 1
Number, share and growth of municipalities (census subdivisions) of at least 5,000 inhabitantsTable 1 Note 1 that decreased in population, by census metropolitan influenced zone type, Canada, 2011 to 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number. The information is grouped by Region (appearing as row headers), Municipalities, Municipalities that decreased in population, Number, Share and Growth from 2011 to 2016, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Region MunicipalitiesTable 1 Note 2 Municipalities that decreased in populationTable 1 Note 2
Number Share Growth from 2011 to 2016
number percent
In a census metropolitan area (CMA) 264 29 11.0 -1.5
In a census agglomeration (CA) 163 41 25.2 -2.1
In a metropolitan influenced zoneTable 1 Note 3 296 95 32.1 -2.8
Located close to a CMA or CA 116 14 12.1 -1.9
Located farther away from a CMA or CA 180 81 45.0 -2.9
Total 723 165 22.8 -2.1

Population decrease in many municipalities located on or close to the island of Montréal

Sixteen of the 29 municipalities that are located within a CMA and that showed the highest rates of population decrease were located in the Montréal CMA (Table 2).

Among these, six were located mostly on the west side of the island of Montréal: Kirkland (-5.2%), Hampstead (-2.5%), Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue (-2.3%), Dollard-Des Ormeaux (-1.5%), Beaconsfield (-0.9%) and Montréal‑Ouest (-0.7%).

An additional five municipalities were located either on the south or north shore, but close to the island of Montréal or the Île Jésus: Rosemère (-2.4%), Lorraine (-1.3%), Saint-Eustache (-0.3%), Deux‑Montagnes (‑0.3%) and Delson (-0.1%).

Because the fastest-growing municipalities in the Montréal CMA were often located on the edge of the CMA (see Census in Brief article entitled Municipalities in Canada with the largest and fastest-growing populations between 2011 and 2016, recent trends in the population growth of the Montréal CMA show evidence of urban spread.

The other five municipalities with a population decrease in the Montréal CMA were Richelieu (-4.2%), Sainte‑Anne-des-Plaines (-0.8%), Sainte-Julie (-0.5%), Otterburn Park (-0.3%) and Sainte-Thérèse (-0.1%).

The municipality within a CMA that showed the strongest population decrease between 2011 and 2016 was Mount Pearl (-5.5%), located in the CMA of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Two municipalities located in CMAs that experienced a population decrease between 2011 and 2016 were central municipalitiesNote 2: Saint John, New Brunswick (-3.6%), and Thunder Bay, Ontario (-0.4%).

A few of the municipalities that showed a population decrease between 2011 and 2016 were located in Ontario: Central Elgin (-1.1%) and Strathroy-Caradoc (-0.5%) in the London CMA; Tecumseh (-1.6%) in the Windsor CMA; Douro-Dummer (-1.4%) in the Peterborough CMA; Thunder Bay in the Thunder Bay CMA (-0.4%); and Port Colborne (-0.6%) in the St. Catharines–Niagara CMA.

No municipalities within CMAs located in the Prairie provinces or in Nova Scotia showed a population decrease from 2011 to 2016.

Table 2
Population and growth of municipalities (census subdivisions) of at least 5,000 inhabitantsTable 2 Note 1 located within census metropolitan areas and showing a population decrease, Canada, 2011 and 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Population and growth of municipalities (census subdivisions) of at least 5. The information is grouped by Rank (appearing as row headers), Municipality name, Province, CMA in which the municipality is located, Population, 2011, 2016 and Growth from 2011 to 2016, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Rank Municipality name Province CMA in which the municipality is located Population
2011 2016 Growth from 2011 to 2016
number percent
1 Mount Pearl Newfoundland and Labrador St. John's 24,284 22,957 -5.5
2 Kirkland Quebec Montréal 21,253 20,151 -5.2
3 Richelieu Quebec Montréal 5,467 5,236 -4.2
4 Saint John New Brunswick Saint John 70,063 67,575 -3.6
5 Grand Bay-Westfield New Brunswick Saint John 5,117 4,964 -3.0
6 Hampstead Quebec Montréal 7,153 6,973 -2.5
7 Rosemère Quebec Montréal 14,294 13,958 -2.4
8 Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Quebec Montréal 5,073 4,958 -2.3
9 Rothesay New Brunswick Saint John 11,892 11,659 -2.0
10 Tecumseh Ontario Windsor 23,610 23,229 -1.6
11 Dollard-Des Ormeaux Quebec Montréal 49,637 48,899 -1.5
12 Douro-Dummer Ontario Peterborough 6,805 6,709 -1.4
13 Lorraine Quebec Montréal 9,479 9,352 -1.3
14 L'Ancienne-Lorette Quebec Québec 16,745 16,543 -1.2
15 Central Elgin Ontario London 12,743 12,607 -1.1
16 Chelsea Quebec Ottawa–Gatineau 6,977 6,909 -1.0
17 Beaconsfield Quebec Montréal 19,505 19,324 -0.9
18 Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines Quebec Montréal 14,535 14,421 -0.8
19 Montréal-Ouest Quebec Montréal 5,085 5,050 -0.7
20 Port Colborne Ontario St. Catharines–Niagara 18,424 18,306 -0.6
21 Sainte-Julie Quebec Montréal 30,044 29,881 -0.5
22 Strathroy-Caradoc Ontario London 20,978 20,867 -0.5
23 West Vancouver British Columbia Vancouver 42,694 42,473 -0.5
24 Thunder Bay Ontario Thunder Bay 108,359 107,909 -0.4
25 Otterburn Park Quebec Montréal 8,450 8,421 -0.3
26 Saint-Eustache Quebec Montréal 44,154 44,008 -0.3
27 Deux-Montagnes Quebec Montréal 17,552 17,496 -0.3
28 Sainte-Thérèse Quebec Montréal 26,025 25,989 -0.1
29 Delson Quebec Montréal 7,462 7,457 -0.1

Readers can consult two sets of detailed thematic maps showing population growth rates between 2011 and 2016: the first set shows the growth of municipalities located in each province and territory and the second set shows the growth in the 35 CMAs by census tract.

Among the top 25 municipalities located outside census metropolitan areas that show a population decrease, 17 are located in the Atlantic provinces or Quebec

Table 3 shows the 25 municipalities with at least 5,000 inhabitants located outside CMAs that experienced the highest rates of population decrease between 2011 and 2016. Twenty of them (four in five, or 80%) were municipalities located farther away from a CMA or CA. The other five were located either in CAs or were municipalities located close to a CMA or CA.

Out of the 25 municipalities shown in Table 3, only 8 were located outside the Atlantic provinces and Quebec: Espanola (-6.9%), Kirkland Lake (-6.0%), Elliot Lake (-5.3%), and Temiskaming Shores (-4.6%) in Ontario; Flin Flon (Part) (-7.8%) in Manitoba; Bonnyville (-12.9%) and Westlock County (-5.5%) in Alberta; and Northern Rockies (-8.7%) in British Columbia.

Seven municipalities were in Quebec and all were located farther away from a CMA or CA, including Sainte‑Anne-des-Monts (-7.2%), La Malbaie (-6.7%), Coaticook (-6.0%), Mont-Joli (-5.8%), La Sarre (-5.7%), Louiseville (-4.9%), and Lac-Mégantic (-4.7%).

Seven municipalities were in Nova Scotia, located in two different areas. The municipalities in the first area, north of the CMA of Halifax, were Cumberland, Subd. B (-7.9%); New Glasgow (-5.1%); Pictou, Subd. A (-5.0%); and Pictou, Subd. C (-4.8%). The second area was west of the CMA of Halifax and included the municipalities of Queens (-5.6%), Barrington (-5.0%) and Digby (-4.8%).

Table 3
Population and growth of the top 25 municipalities (census subdivisions) of at least 5,000 inhabitantsTable 3 Note 1 located outside census metropolitan areas with the lowest rates of population growth, Canada, 2011 and 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Population and growth of the top 25 municipalities (census subdivisions) of at least 5. The information is grouped by Rank (appearing as row headers), Municipality name, Province, Census agglomeration name or type of metropolitan influenced zone, Population, 2011, 2016 and Growth from 2011 to 2016, calculated using number and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Rank Municipality name Province Census agglomeration name or type of metropolitan influenced zone Population
2011 2016 Growth from 2011 to 2016
number percent
1 Bonnyville Alberta Moderate 6,216 5,417 -12.9
2 Northern Rockies British Columbia Weak 5,290 4,831 -8.7
3 Cumberland, Subd. B Nova Scotia Weak 7,448 6,859 -7.9
4 Flin Flon (Part) Manitoba Weak 5,405 4,982 -7.8
5 Sainte-Anne-des-Monts Quebec Weak 6,933 6,437 -7.2
6 Espanola Ontario Moderate 5,364 4,996 -6.9
7 Campbellton New Brunswick CA of Campbellton 7,385 6,883 -6.8
8 La Malbaie Quebec Weak 8,862 8,271 -6.7
9 Grand Falls / Grand-Sault New Brunswick Weak 5,706 5,326 -6.7
10 Kirkland Lake Ontario Weak 8,493 7,981 -6.0
11 Coaticook Quebec Moderate 9,255 8,698 -6.0
12 Mont-Joli Quebec Moderate 6,665 6,281 -5.8
13 La Sarre Quebec Moderate 7,719 7,282 -5.7
14 Queens Nova Scotia Weak 10,917 10,307 -5.6
15 Burton New Brunswick Moderate 5,421 5,119 -5.6
16 Westlock County Alberta Moderate 7,644 7,220 -5.5
17 Elliot Lake Ontario CA of Elliot Lake 11,348 10,741 -5.3
18 New Glasgow Nova Scotia CA of New Glasgow 9,562 9,075 -5.1
19 Pictou, Subd. A Nova Scotia Strong 6,397 6,075 -5.0
20 Barrington Nova Scotia Weak 6,994 6,646 -5.0
21 Louiseville Quebec Moderate 7,517 7,152 -4.9
22 Pictou, Subd. C Nova Scotia CA of New Glasgow 8,867 8,443 -4.8
23 Digby Nova Scotia Weak 7,463 7,107 -4.8
24 Lac-Mégantic Quebec Weak 5,932 5,654 -4.7
25 Temiskaming Shores Ontario Weak 10,400 9,920 -4.6

Data sources, methods and definitions

Data sources
The data in this analysis are from the 2016 Census of Population. Further information on the census can be found in the Guide to the Census of Population, 2016, Catalogue no. 98-304-X.

Methods
The rate of population growth reported in this document is computed as the difference in population size between two censuses, divided by the population of the earlier census, expressed as percentage change.

Definitions
Please refer to the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016, Catalogue no. 98-301-X, for additional information on the census variables.

Additional information

Additional information on population and dwelling counts can be found in the Highlight tables, Catalogue no. 98-402-X2016001; the Census Profile, Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001; and the Focus on Geography Series, Catalogue no. 98-404-X2016001.

Thematic maps for this topic are also available for various levels of geography.

There are also two videos available from the Video centre. They present a historical overview of the population of Canada and its largest metropolitan areas.

An infographic entitled Population Growth in Canada, 2016 Census of Population also illustrates some key findings, including population growth between 2011 and 2016 for Canada, provinces and territories and the six largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in the country.

For details on the concepts, definitions, and variables used in the 2016 Census of Population, please consult the Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016, Catalogue no. 98-301-X.

In addition to response rates and other data-quality information, the Guide to the Census of Population, 2016, Catalogue no. 98-304-X, provides an overview of the various phases of the census including content determination, sampling design, collection, data processing, data quality assessment, confidentiality guidelines and dissemination.

Acknowledgments

This report was prepared by Laurent Martel and Stacey Hallman of Statistics Canada's Demography Division, with the assistance of other staff members of that division, and the collaboration of staff members of Census Subject Matter Secretariat, Statistical Registers and Geography Division, Census Operations Division, and Communications and Dissemination Branch.

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