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Canada's population estimates: Subprovincial areas, July 1, 2015

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Released: 2016-02-10

On July 1, 2015, 7 in 10 Canadians, or 25,164,100 people, were living in a census metropolitan area (CMA). More than 1 in 3 Canadians (35.4%) made their home in Canada's three largest CMAs—Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver.

Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 (2014/2015), the population growth rate was higher in CMAs (+1.2%) than in non-CMAs (+0.1%), although the CMA growth rate slowed somewhat during this period compared with 2013/2014 (+1.4%). This decrease in CMA population growth was comparable with that observed for Canada as a whole, as the rate fell from 1.1% in 2013/2014 to 0.9% in 2014/2015.

In 2014/2015, the population of the Ontario part of the Ottawa–Gatineau CMA passed the 1 million mark, reaching 1,001,200, while the population of the Vancouver CMA passed the 2.5 million mark (2,504,300).

These data are drawn from the publication Annual Demographic Estimates: Subprovincial Areas (Catalogue number91-214-X), which was updated today. An infographic entitled "Census Metropolitan Area's Population Estimates, Canada, 2015" that illustrates some of the results is also available.

Population growth stronger in Western Canadian census metropolitan areas

Preliminary estimates indicate that the seven CMAs with the highest population growth rates were all located in Western Canada. In 2014/2015, the population growth rate was 2.0% or higher in four CMAs: Kelowna (+3.1%), Calgary (+2.4%), Edmonton (+2.4%) and Saskatoon (+2.0%). They were followed by the CMAs of Regina (+1.9%), Abbotsford–Mission (+1.4%) and Winnipeg (+1.4%).

In contrast, the CMAs that posted population decreases were all located in Eastern or Central Canada. The population decreased in the CMAs of Saint John (-0.4%), Greater Sudbury (-0.3%), Saguenay (-0.2%), Peterborough (-0.2%) and Thunder Bay (-0.2%).

Population growth also varied in areas outside of the CMAs. In 2014/2015, the non-CMA part of Alberta grew at a rate of 0.7%, the highest among the non-CMA areas for the provinces. Population decreases were recorded in the non-CMA parts of three provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (-1.1%), Nova Scotia (-0.7%) and New Brunswick (-0.4%).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Population growth rates by census metropolitan area, 2014/2015, Canada
Population growth rates by census metropolitan area, 2014/2015, Canada

International migration remains the main driver of population growth in census metropolitan areas

As was the case for Canada as a whole, population growth in CMAs from international migration slowed in 2014/2015. Although international migration continues to be the factor explaining most of the population growth of CMAs (60%), its contribution was down from 2013/2014 (66%).

The growth rate from international migration slowed especially in the CMAs in Alberta, falling from 1.5% to 0.6% in Calgary and down from 1.3% to 0.3% in Edmonton. The Winnipeg CMA (+1.6%) had the highest growth rate from international migration for a second consecutive year.

In absolute numbers, the strongest growth from international migration continued to be in the Toronto (+66,700), Montréal (+34,700) and Vancouver (+20,300) CMAs.

Interprovincial migration leads growth in the census metropolitan areas of Alberta and British Columbia

In most of Canada's CMAs (27 of 34), net interprovincial migration was zero or negative in 2014/2015. Proportionately, the largest interprovincial migration losses occurred in the CMAs of Saint John and Winnipeg (-0.7% for each).

Conversely, the Kelowna CMA (+1.0%) posted the highest growth rate from interprovincial migration in Canada. The growth rates from interprovincial migration in the CMAs of Calgary (+0.7%) and Edmonton (+0.9%) were slightly lower than in the previous year, each down 0.2 percentage points. Despite the declines, they remained among the highest rates in Canada.

Intraprovincial migration behind the decline in the three largest census metropolitan areas

The three largest CMAs in Canada recorded migration losses within their own province, specifically Toronto (-22,800), Montréal (-3,600) and Vancouver (-4,400). These migration losses were primarily to the surrounding non-CMA areas. The Toronto CMA also posted significant migration losses to the neighbouring CMAs of Oshawa and Hamilton.

Population younger in census metropolitan areas than in non-census metropolitan areas

On July 1, 2015, the median age of the population residing in a CMA was 39.3 years, compared with 43.9 years for the non-CMA population. As well, the proportion of people aged 65 and older was lower in CMAs (14.9%) than in non-CMAs (18.9%).

Population estimates for Canada on July 1, 2015 (released on September 29, 2015), showed that, for the first time, the number of people 65 years and older exceeded the number of children aged 0 to 14. However, in CMAs, the proportion of children aged 0 to 14 (15.9%) remained higher than the proportion of people aged 65 and older (14.9%). By contrast, in non-CMAs, the number of people aged 65 and older exceeded that of children aged 0 to 14 in 2010/2011.

Trois-Rivières remained the CMA with the highest median age (46.0 years) and the highest proportion of people aged 65 and older (21.6%). In contrast, the Saskatoon CMA had the lowest median age at 34.8 years, while the Calgary CMA had the smallest proportion of people aged 65 and older (10.4%). The Abbotsford–Mission CMA had the largest proportion of children aged 0 to 14 (18.1%).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Distribution of population by age group and census metropolitan area, Canada, July 1, 2015
Distribution of population by age group and census metropolitan area, Canada, July 1, 2015

Population also aging in census metropolitan areas

Although the CMA population is younger than the non-CMA population, it is also aging. Between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2015, the proportion of people aged 65 and older in CMAs rose 2.7 percentage points to 14.9%. During the same period, this proportion rose 4.2 percentage points in non-CMAs to 18.9%.

Moreover, the median age of the CMA population has also increased over the past decade, from 37.7 years in 2005 to 39.3 years in 2015 (+1.6 years). In comparison, the increase in median age outside CMAs was twice as large, increasing 3.2 years to 43.9 years.

  Note to readers

This release focuses mainly on preliminary postcensal population estimates for census metropolitan areas by age and sex as of July 1, 2015. Revised estimates as of July 1, for years 2012, 2013 and 2014 are also available. Population estimates are also released for census divisions and economic regions.

The estimates presented in this release are subject to revision. Future updates could affect the trends observed and analyzed in this release.

Estimates by age and sex in this release are based on 2011 Census counts adjusted for census net undercoverage and incompletely enumerated Indian reserves, to which is added the estimated demographic growth from May 10, 2011 to June 30, 2015.

These estimates are also based on the 2011 Standard Geographical Classification.

Population growth rates are calculated using the average of populations at the beginning and end of the period under consideration as a denominator. A rate that is higher than minus 0.1% but lower than 0.1% is considered not to be significant.

A census metropolitan area (CMA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the core. To be included in the CMA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the core, as measured by commuting flows derived from census place of work data.

The Ottawa–Gatineau CMA is split in two in order to distinguish its Ontario and Quebec parts.


The publication Annual Demographic Estimates: Subprovincial Areas, July 1, 2015 (Catalogue number91-214-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

The infographic "Census Metropolitan Area's Population Estimates, Canada, 2015," which is part of Statistics Canada – Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M), is also now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications. This infographic is based on this release and gives an overview of the latest demographic trends at the census metropolitan area level in Canada.

Contact information

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