Canada has released the findings of its 2011 census, and for the first time more people live in the western provinces than in the eastern ones. This comes as the population of the country surged 5.9 percent from 2006 to 2011 to 33.4 million. This rate of growth made Canada the fastest growing country of the G8 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.).
Overall, immigration fueled much of Canada’s growth—net international migration (the difference between immigrants and emigrants) accounted for two thirds of Canada’s population increase over the past decade. In contrast, recent population growth in the United States has been mainly the result of natural increase (the difference between births and deaths).
The population of all provinces and two of three territories increased between 2006 and 2011 (the one that fell, the Northwest Territories, lost just two people). Among the provinces, Alberta (10.8 percent) had the fastest growth rate. In Saskatchewan, another Western province, the population increased 6.7 percent between 2006 and 2011, following a decline of 1.1 percent in the previous five-year period.
When combined with strong, immigration driven-growth in British Columbia, the western provinces for the first time have a greater share of the Canadian population than the sum of Quebec and Atlantic Canada. The decline of manufacturing in Ontario, which cost the province more than 300,000 jobs over the last decade, was a major contributor to tens of thousands of Ontarians leaving the province for greener pastures, twice as many as between 2001 and 2006. Ontario also welcomed about 100,000 fewer immigrants over the last five years than it did in the first half of the decade. While it’s still growing at a healthy rate (5.7 percent between 2006 and 2011, it’s not growing the way it used to.
Despite its large geographic area, Canada’s population is centered on its three largest cities—Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver—which account for 35 percent of the total Canadian population. The rate of population growth in these CMAs was 9.2 percent in Toronto, 5.2 percent in Montréal and 9.3 percent in Vancouver. Growth was mainly the result of immigration, as a majority of immigrants chose to settle in these areas. The two fastest growing cities were both in Alberta; Calgary, where the population rose 12.6 percent and Edmonton, where it increased 12.1 percent.