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Population projections: Canada, the provinces and territories

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2009 to 2036 (Previous release)

All growth scenarios considered, Canada's population could exceed 40 million by 2036. The ageing of the population is projected to accelerate rapidly, as the entire baby boom generation turns 65 during this period. The number of senior citizens could more than double, outnumbering children for the first time.

From 2009 to 2036, Canada's population could grow from 33.7 million to between 40.1 million under the low growth scenario and 47.7 million under the high growth scenario.

Results at the provincial and territorial levels vary according to the scenario considered, mainly due to differences in interprovincial migration patterns. Overall, regardless of the scenario, growth would be higher than the national average in Ontario and British Columbia. The population of every province and territory would increase during this time, except in some scenarios in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada's population would age rapidly until 2031, by which time the entire baby boom generation would have turned 65. It would continue ageing after 2031, but at a less rapid pace.

By 2036, the number of seniors is projected to reach between 9.9 million and 10.9 million, more than double the level of 4.7 million in 2009. They would surpass the number of children aged 14 or under for the first time ever between 2015 and 2021, depending on the scenario.

By 2036, the median age of the population would range between 42 and 45 years, compared with the current median of 39.5.

Contributors to demographic growth

Canada's population growth depends on two factors: natural increase (births minus deaths), and net international migration (immigrants minus emigrants).

The number of deaths is projected to increase during the entire period between 2009 and 2036, as the baby boom generation gets older. Under the medium-growth scenario, natural increase would remain positive until 2036, although the levels of births and deaths would get closer over time.

Note to readers

This release presents new population projections by age and sex for Canada, the provinces and territories from 2009 to 2036. Population projections are not forecasts. Forecasts tell what the most likely future will be. These projections represent an attempt to establish plausible long-term scenarios based on assumptions of fertility, life expectancy and migration.

These projections use the population estimates for July 1, 2009, as starting point. They take into account emerging trends in the components of population growth, to project the population up to the year 2036 for Canada, the provinces and territories. They also project Canada's population to 2061.

This release presents the main results of six projections scenarios including high-, medium- and low-growth scenarios. The medium-growth scenario assumes a continuation in the recent trends in fertility, mortality and immigration. It is bracketed by high- and low-growth scenarios, in which fertility, mortality and immigration levels are higher or lower as the case may be.

Four interprovincial migration patterns are associated to the medium growth scenario and provide different results at the provincial and territorial level.

Also available is a supplementary "short-term" scenario based on very recent trends in Canadian demographics. This scenario projects the population over a 5-year period only, compared with 25 years for long-term scenarios. Detailed tables for all those scenarios are available on CANSIM or on a CD-ROM.

Regardless of the scenario, immigration levels would represent a larger share of the projected population growth at the national level. Because large numbers of new immigrants consist of younger individuals in the child-bearing age, sustained levels of immigration would also have a positive impact on the number of births.

According to the medium-growth scenario, Canada would receive roughly 333,600 immigrants a year by 2036, compared with 252,500 in 2010.

Age structure of the population

Projections show that seniors would account for between 23% and 25% of the total population by 2036, nearly double the 13.9% in 2009. Higher immigration levels would do little to change the forthcoming ageing of the Canadian population.

At the same time, the proportion of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 would decline steadily from about 70% to about 60%.

Consequently, ratios of children and seniors to the working-age population would increase in the future, particularly the latter. The number of children aged 14 or under for every 100 people in the working-age population would increase from 24 in 2009 to 26 by 2036, according to the medium-growth scenario. The increase would be larger for seniors aged 65 and over, where by 2036 their numbers according to this scenario would rise from 20 to 39 for every 100 people in the working-age population. Corresponding to this change, the ratio of working-age population to seniors would decrease from five to one in 2009 to just over two and half to one by 2036.

Projections also show Canada would have far more very elderly people. In 2009, there were roughly 1.3 million people aged 80 or over. According to the medium-growth scenario, this could increase to 3.3 million by 2036.

The number of centenarians is projected to triple or quadruple, depending on the scenario. There were about 6,000 centenarians in 2009.

Provincial and territorial projections

Ontario and British Columbia are the only provinces in which average annual growth would exceed the growth rate for Canada as a whole between 2009 and 2036, according to all scenarios.

Ontario's population would increase from nearly 13.1 million in 2009 to between 16.1 million and 19.4 million in 2036, depending on the scenario. Under the medium-growth scenario, it would account for 40.5% of the national population in 2036, up from 38.7% in 2009.

The population of British Columbia would increase from nearly 4.5 million in 2009 to between 5.8 million and 7.1 million in 2036. Under the medium-growth scenario, its share of Canada's total population would rise from 13.2% to 14.5%.

Quebec would remain the second most populous province. Its population would rise from 7.8 million in 2009 to between 8.6 million and 10.0 million in 2036.

Under the lowest-growth scenario, Newfoundland and Labrador's population would decline from 508,900 in 2009 to 483,400 in 2036. Under the highest-growth scenario, it would rise to 544,500.

Age structure in the provinces and territories

Provincially, population ageing would differ from region to region. In almost every scenario, the four Atlantic provinces would continue to have the highest median ages by 2036. Northwest Territories and Nunavut would have the youngest.

Between those two extremes, the median age would be lower than the national level in three provinces: Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

In the medium-growth scenario, Manitoba would be the youngest province by 2036, and Newfoundland and Labrador the oldest.

Available on CANSIM: table 052-0005.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3602.

The publication Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2009 to 2036 (91-520-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, to obtain additional data, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-866-767-5611; 613-951-2320; fax: 613-951-2307;, Demography Division.

Table 1

Observed (2009) and projected (2036) population according to three scenarios, Canada, provinces and territories
  2009 Scenario (2036)
    Low-growth Medium-growth High-growth
Canada 33,739.9 40,142.4 43,821.7 47,686.0
Newfoundland and Labrador 508.9 483.4 513.7 544.5
Prince Edward Island 141.0 160.9 174.3 188.1
Nova Scotia 938.2 987.0 1,054.6 1,123.5
New Brunswick 749.5 772.3 822.2 873.5
Quebec 7,828.9 8,578.4 9,272.4 10,001.0
Ontario 13,069.2 16,135.9 17,746.8 19,440.0
Manitoba 1,222.0 1,434.3 1,579.7 1,735.7
Saskatchewan 1,030.1 1,120.0 1,207.0 1,298.2
Alberta 3,687.7 4,563.5 4,963.7 5,383.2
British Columbia 4,455.2 5,785.8 6,355.8 6,955.6
Yukon 33.7 36.0 38.8 41.8
Northwest Territories 43.4 48.6 52.7 56.9
Nunavut 32.2 36.3 40.0 44.2