Canada Shifts West

New census figures show population dominance moving away from the east.

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Reuters

The first population figures from the 2011 Canadian census have been released. Overall, immigration is fueling much of the country’s population growth, its cities are showing sometimes huge growth rates, and for the first time, the majority of Canadians live in the western half of the country.

According to Statistics Canada, the country’s population is now 33.4 million people, an increase of 5.9 percent between 2006 and 2011. This represents the fastest growth rate among G8 countries. Two-thirds of the growth is attributed to net international migration.

Canada's three largest metro areas – Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver – account for 35 percent of the total population. Calgary and Edmonton are the two fastest growing metros, with growth rates of 12.6 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively. Overall, Canada's 33 metro areas grew faster than the country as a whole, with a rate of 7.4 percent compared to the national rate of 5.9 percent. Only two metros saw negative growth rates: Windsor at -1.3 percent and Thunder Bay at -1.1 percent. Both are located in Ontario.

And as this report notes, the population share of the Western provinces now exceeds that of the Eastern provinces. It’s a slight edge, with the West at 30.7 percent of the population and the East at 30.6 percent, but it's significant nonetheless. As cities and provinces in the western part of the country continue to see high growth rates, Canada as a whole will begin to become less of an eastern-dominated country. As the Globe and Mail reports:

The census results confirm what many Canadians already instinctively understand. The country is reorienting itself toward the Pacific. Oil, gas, potash and other resources are drawing newcomers. The region’s political and economic influence is growing as a result. 

Alberta looks to be the new center of growth in Canada, with 10 of the top 15 fastest growing cities in the country.

While the traditionally east-based power structure of the country looks to be heading west, the eastern provinces aren’t just drying up. The new face of Canada is likely to be bi-coastal, and the political leadership will have to pay increasing attention to the booming west.

Photo credit: Todd Korol / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.