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             2016 Census: Ontario Has Its Own Growth Success Stories  

 

By Randall White

Even in Ontario, the banner headline on the first 2016 Census data release was “Western provinces’ populations are the fastest-growing in Canada.” 

Yet while true enough, this can also be more than a little misleading. 

Ontario has its own success stories.

Ontario’s population grew by 4.6% between 2011 and 2016. This was below the Canada-wide average of 5.0%  — buoyed by western growth rates of from 5.6% in BC to 11.6% in Alberta (before the fall in oil prices since 2014).

At the same time, however, Ontario’s 4.6% growth compares nicely with 4.7% in California between 2010 and 2015. And it is well above the parallel increases in such neighbouring states of the union as New York (1.9%) and Michigan (0.3%). 

Similarly, in 2016 Ontario accounted for 38.3% of the Canada-wide population — down slightly from 2011. Yet it accounted for almost 44% of the Canada-wide population back in 1871. And 70 years later, this had fallen to 33% in 1941. 

But 70 years later again in 2011 Ontario’s share of the Canadian population was back up above 38%. It was in the same ballpark in 2016, and Ontario today remains Canada’s most populous province by a very wide margin.

Population growth trends inside the province between 2011 and 2016 reflect their own fresh intrigue and vigour as well.

The fastest growing places in percentage rates were six First Nations reserves — four of which are in Northern Ontario. Another 40 reserves (mostly also in Northern Ontario) grew above the 4.6% provincial average.  

Outside of First Nations reserves, there are two stories about the 32 Ontario municipalities with double-digit growth rates between 2011 and 2016 — dramatically above the average. 

The first points to a zone of rapid population growth in the far-flung outer suburbs and exurbs, north and west of the Toronto “global city.” The zone now extends to Georgian Bay. And it has a lot to do with high real estate prices in the more immediate Greater Toronto Area. 

(Cases in point start with the Town of Shelburne, which grew by a stunning 39.0% between 2011 and 2016. Further examples include Milton at 30.5%, King Township 23.2%, Whitchurch-Stouffville 21.8%, and Wasaga Beach at 17.9%.) 

Another double-digit growth story involves smaller places mostly in northern locations, including the boater’s “jewel of Ontario” along the North Channel of Lake Huron.

Meanwhile, Canada’s federal capital city of Ottawa expanded nicely above the average at 5.8%. 

Other places around Ottawa also enjoyed high single-digit growth rates between 2011 and 2016  — North Grenville (9.1%), Beckwith (9.4%), and the “70% bilingual” Nation Municipality/Municipalité de La Nation (9.8%).

Back in the more immediate Greater Toronto Area, the city of Toronto itself grew at 4.5%, just below the 4.6% provincial average — but adding more than 116,000 new residents.

Some more immediate GTA places outside Toronto continued to grow at single-digit rates above the provincial average as well. Examples include Oakville at 6.2%, Oshawa at 6.6%, and Markham at 9.0%. 

Rising GTA real estate prices were also accompanied by higher population growth rates in the Niagara region — from 4.9% in Thorold to 13.7% in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Some Ontario cities did grow more slowly: Hamilton at 3.3%, Windsor 3.0%, and Mississauga 1.1%.  And some places in regions beyond the more immediate Toronto hinterland lost population between 2011 and 2016. 

But the same regions had their own places that grew at high single-digit rates too. The Eastern Ontario growth list includes Trent Lakes at 5.8%, Petawawa 7.5%, and Clarington at 8.8%.   

The high tech cluster in the Waterloo-Wellington region includes Kitchener grew at 6.4%, Guelph 8.0%, and North Dumfries Township at 9.4%. 

Places with higher single-digit growth rates in Southwestern Ontario range from the City of London at 4.8% to North Bruce Peninsula at 6.8%, the City of Woodstock at 8.3%, and the iconic small town of St. Mary’s at 9.2%!

Northern Ontario has its own high-growth list in such places as Strong Township in Parry Sound (7.3%), French River (9.0%), and Terrace Bay (9.5%).

One is led to the following conclusion, then: the ultimate Ontario big picture suggested by the first batch of 2016 Census population data has been taking shape for a while now.

On the one hand there is the growth of the global city in Toronto and its more immediate environs. (This has been provocatively sketched in a 2016 book of articles called Subdivided: City Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity, edited by Jay Pitter and John Lorinc.)

On the other hand, there are also fresh trends beyond the big smoke. (These were sketched in a 2012 study called Beyond the Global City: Understanding and Planning for the Diversity of Ontario, edited by Gordon Nelson.)

One leadership challenge in Canada’s most populous province today is to somehow coax these two different growth stories to work together. 

Whoever can do this best may also stand the best chance of winning the 2018 Ontario election. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : February 14, 2017

View all of Randall White's columns
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