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Canada's population estimates: Subprovincial areas, July 1, 2019

Released: 2020-02-13

Canada's population growth concentrated in urban regions, fuelled by permanent and temporary immigration

Canada continues to be more urbanized as the population of Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs) rose to 27.0 million (71.7%). CMAs outpaced growth in the rest of the country (1.7% versus 0.6%).

Permanent and temporary immigration continues to drive population growth in Canada's CMAs, accounting for almost all of their growth in 2018/2019. In contrast, international migration accounted for just over half of the population growth in non-CMAs of the country. This trend is linked to higher targets for permanent immigration, as defined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and to various government programs that draw many temporary workers and foreign students to the country.

Population estimates by census subdivision are being released for the first time today.

Ontario continues to be home to the fastest-growing CMAs

For a second consecutive year, Ontario was home to the fastest-growing CMAs, with Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo (+2.8%) leading the way, followed by London and the Ontario part of Ottawa–Gatineau (+2.3% each). The arrival of many permanent and temporary immigrants played a key role in their growth.

In Alberta, population growth increased in the Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge CMAs in 2018/2019 (+2.1% each).

No CMA posted a population decrease in the past year. St. John's (Newfoundland and Labrador) was the only CMA where the population remained relatively stable.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Population growth rate by census metropolitan area, 2018/2019, Canada
Population growth rate by census metropolitan area, 2018/2019, Canada

Urban spread continues

Urban spread, as measured by the expansion of peripheral municipalities in metropolitan areas, continued over the past year in Canada's largest CMAs. Most often, the municipalities with the strongest growth were in suburban areas. For example, the municipalities of East Gwillimbury (+9.5%) and Milton (+5.0%) had the highest growth in the Toronto CMA (+2.0%). Similarly, Carignan (+4.6%) and Mirabel (+4.1%) recorded the largest population growth in the Montréal CMA (+1.5%).

Moreover, the three largest CMAs experienced urban spread beyond their borders. In 2018/2019, the CMAs of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver continued to post steady population growth, mainly due to international migration. However, they also continued to lose people through their migratory exchanges with other regions within their respective provinces. The losses in Toronto (-47,838), Vancouver (-14,241) and Montréal (-14,117) contributed to the growth of areas just outside these CMAs. For example, the high population growth of municipalities like Shelburne (Ontario) (+3.9%) or Contrecœur (Quebec) (+3.9%) are likely the result of people moving out of the Toronto and Montréal CMAs, respectively, and into their neighbouring areas.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Distribution of population by age group and census metropolitan area, Canada, July 1, 2019
Distribution of population by age group and census metropolitan area, Canada, July 1, 2019

CMA population is relatively younger and yet aging

The CMAs stand out for their higher population growth and also for their younger population. On July 1, 2019, the average age in the CMAs was 40.5 years, compared with 43.2 years in the regions outside a CMA. Although the CMA population is generally younger, it is also aging. From 2009 to 2019, the average age in the CMAs rose by 1.6 years, which was still less than the increase in the other regions (+2.3 years). The proportion of the population aged 65 and older in the CMAs (16.1%) was also lower than in the rest of the country (21.1%) on July 1, 2019.

Faster population aging in areas outside the CMAs is often linked to the migration of young adults out of these areas. Overall, more young adults leave areas outside a CMA to live in CMAs. In 2018/2019, the CMAs recorded net gains of almost 10,000 people aged 18 to 24 in their migratory exchanges with the regions outside the CMAs. The main reasons for this movement are to pursue postsecondary education and to join the labour market.

  Note to readers

This release focuses mainly on preliminary postcensal population estimates for census metropolitan areas (CMAs) by age and sex as of July 1, 2019. Revised estimates as of July 1, for the years 2011 to 2018, are also available. Population estimates are also released for census agglomerations, census divisions, census subdivisions and economic regions. See the Tables tab for more information.

This analysis is based on preliminary data. These data will be revised over the coming year, and it is possible that some trends described in this study will change as a result of these revisions. Therefore, this analysis should be interpreted with caution.

The estimates released today are based on 2016 Census counts, adjusted for census net undercoverage and incompletely enumerated Indian reserves, to which are added the population growth estimates for the period from May 10, 2016, to the date of the estimate. These estimates are based on the 2016 Standard Geographical Classification.

The annual period of reference comprises the period of July 1 of a certain year to July 1 of the following year. Therefore, 2018/2019 refers to the period from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019.

For the purpose of calculating rates, the denominator is the average population during the period (the average of the start-of-period and end-of-period populations). For the sake of brevity, the terms growth, population growth and population growth rate have the same meaning. A rate higher than -0.1% and lower than 0.1% is considered not significant.

A census metropolitan area 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 divided into two parts to distinguish its Ontario and Quebec parts.

Census subdivision is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g., Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories). For the sake of brevity, the terms census subdivision and municipality have the same meaning.


The publication Annual Demographic Estimates: Subprovincial Areas, July 1, 2019 (Catalogue number91-214-X), is now available.

The product "Annual demographic estimates, census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations: Interactive dashboard" (Catalogue number71-607-X) is also available.

The infographic "Population of Canada's Metropolitan Areas and Municipalities, July 1, 2019," which is part of the series Statistics Canada – Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M), is also available.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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