Canada’s cities see immigration-driven population surge after pandemic lull

Canada’s cities see immigration-driven population surge after pandemic lull

Canada’s urban areas experienced their strongest population growth in at least two decades, rebounding from a weak expansion during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the year ending July 1, 2022, the country’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) grew 2.1 per cent or by 574,000 people, according to Statistics Canada estimates published on Wednesday. That was the strongest pace of growth in figures that go back to the early 2000s.

It was a comeback of sorts for urban regions, which had grown just 0.5 per cent the previous year, lagging the increase in rural areas. The pandemic and accompanying border restrictions led to a dramatic decline in immigration, while others decamped to smaller communities.

Immigration to Canada hits record high in 2022

But the demise of the city, as some commentators had predicted, does not bear out in Wednesday’s report. As COVID-19 restrictions have eased, immigration has surged to record levels, helping to drive most of the population growth in urban areas. Sixteen CMAs notched their strongest annual population growth in at least the past 20 years.

“New permanent immigrants and net gains of non-permanent residents accounted for most of this rapid growth,” Statscan said in its report. “The largest urban centres continue to see their growth resulting mostly from international migration as movement toward smaller urban centres or peripheral regions remains strong.”

In particular, Atlantic Canada is experiencing a boom period. Moncton’s population rose by 5.4 per cent over the 12-month period ending July 1, 2022, the most of any CMA. Halifax was next in line, with growth of 4.5 per cent. Charlottetown saw a 4.2-per-cent jump in residents.

There was breadth to the expansion, too. The Calgary area grew by 3.2 per cent or roughly 50,000 people, the strongest pace since the mid-2000s. The Vancouver area grew 2.8 per cent. Barrie and London, in Ontario, rose by 3.2 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

The Toronto region grew by 2.1 per cent or more than 138,000 people. Despite that increase, a growing number of residents are leaving the area, likely because of exorbitant housing costs.

Over the most recent year, the Toronto area had a net intraprovincial outflow of roughly 78,000 people, meaning 78,000 more people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario than moved in. That was the most on record, and the outflow has accelerated in recent years, alongside rising home prices and rents. There has been a spike of children leaving the city, suggesting that young families are getting priced out of home ownership and looking further afield for properties.

Toronto is also losing people to other provinces. The region saw a net interprovincial outflow – movement between provinces – of roughly 21,400 residents, also a record.

On the flipside, the Calgary area swung to a net interprovincial gain of residents, in what amounted to the largest inflow of people since the oil-price collapse of 2014 to 2016.

Similarly, Halifax is drawing loads of people from outside Nova Scotia. The CMA notched a net interprovincial inflow of more than 8,000 people, a figure that has been steadily rising for years.

Brigitte Teleu, a local real-estate agent, said upwards of 30 per cent of her clients have been out-of-province buyers, largely from Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

“Our prices are still relatively low, even now, compared to the rest of Canada,” she said. “A lot of people are selling their homes in Toronto, and they have all the money to spare, and they just buy a house up-front in cash.”

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