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Section 9: Census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations

In 2006, 68% (21.5 million) of Canada’s population lived in the 33 census metropolitan areas. About two-thirds of these people (14.1 million) resided in the six census metropolitan areas (CMAs) with a population of more than 1 million: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa - Gatineau and, Calgary and Edmonton (table 9.1). Population growth in CMAs was robust and accounted for the bulk of the nation’s growth. For example, 90% of the growth in the Canadian population between 2001 and 2006 occurred in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs). 1  However, CMAs varied in their population growth rates, for example Barrie, Ontario (+19.2%) recorded the highest rate, while Saguenay, Quebec (-2.1%) experienced the biggest population decline among CMAs (chart 9.1).

Although the population of CMAs in general is relatively young when compared to the rest of the country, CMAs continued to experience population aging during the five years that preceded the 2006 Census. The proportion of people aged 65 and over in all CMAs combined rose from 12.6% in 2001 to 13.3% in 2006, while the proportion of people under 15 years declined to 17.5% in 2006 from 18.8% five years earlier (table 9.1). CMAs vary with respect to the proportion of seniors and children under 15 years of age in their population. Barrie (20.8%) was the youngest CMA in 2006, owing mainly to a high fertility rate and the influx of inter-provincial and international immigrants of child-bearing age. On the other hand, Kelowna and Peterborough were the oldest CMA in Canada, with 19% and 18.2% respectively of their population aged 65 and older (table 9.1).

Census Metropolitan areas and Census Agglomerations

The 2006 Census of Canada took place on Tuesday, May 16, 2006. The census provides a statistical portrait of our country and its people. This first part of this section analyses and presents some of the results of the 2006 census relating to total population and the age and sex distribution of the CMAs and CAs in Canada.

A Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) is a region that has a population of at least 100,000, including an urban core of at least 50,000. Canada has 33 CMAs today, up from 27 in 2001. The six new CMAs are Barrie, Guelph, Brantford and Peterborough, Ontario; Moncton, New Brunswick; and Kelowna, British Columbia. A census agglomeration (CA), is an urban area that has an urban core with a population of at least 10,000, but is not a census metropolitan area (CMA). Canada now has 111 CAs, down from 113 in 2001. Beside the six CAs that have become CMAs since 2001, mentioned above, seven new CAs were established: Bay Roberts (Newfoundland and Labrador), Canmore (Alberta), Centre Wellington and Ingersoll (Ontario), Miramichi (New Brunswick), Okotoks (Alberta) and Salmon Arm (British Columbia). Two 2001 CAs were no longer CAs in 2006: Gander and Labrador City (Newfoundland and Labrador). Also, Magog is now part of the Sherbrooke CMA.

CMAs and CAs are formed by merging adjacent municipalities centred on a large urban area. The census population count of the urban core must be at least 10,000 to form a census agglomeration and at least 100,000 to form a census metropolitan area. To be included in the CMA or CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban area, as measured by commuting flows derived from census place of work data. CMAs can straddle provincial boundaries; for example, Ottawa-Gatineau is formed by neighbouring municipalities some of which are in Ontario and others in Quebec.


Although variations exist from one CMA to another, on average, about 6 in every 10 households (62.1%) were one family only households. Looking at individual CMAs, Oshawa (70.1%) recorded the highest percentage of single family households, followed by Barrie (68.8%). Victoria (57.0%) and Vancouver (58.4%) recorded the lowest percentages of one family households (table 9.3).

On the other hand, the smallest proportion of Canadians lived in “Other family households” (which refers to one-census family households with additional persons and to multiple-census family households, with or without additional persons), which accounted for only 6.5% of all CMA households. The rest of Canadians in CMAs (32.4%) resided in non-family households (a non-family household refers to either one person living alone in a private dwelling or to a group of two or more people who share a private dwelling, but who do not constitute a census family). Also, the highest percentage of Canadians living in the CMAs in 2006 lived in two-person households (31.8%).

Chart 9.1 Population change in CMAs, 2001 to 2006 Census
Source(s):  Statistics Canada, Censuses of Population 2001 and 2006.

Given the aging of the Canadian population in general and those of the CMAs, it is important to know the housing tenure of particular age groups, especially seniors and those people under 25 years of age. Among the CMAs, Kelowna (31.1%) Victoria (30.2%) and St Catherines – Niagara (29.4%) recorded the highest percentage of household maintainers 65 years and older, who own their own homes. On the other hand Calgary (15.2%) had the lowest proportion of seniors who own their homes (table 9.4).

Given the life stage that they are in, people aged 25 and below are more likely than the other age groups to maintain rented households. Thus, in all of the CMAs, those under 25 were the least likely to own their own homes. Although nationwide, household maintainers who are under 25 years of age accounted for 9.2% of all those renting, among CMAs, this percentage varies. For example, in Saskatoon, 18.7% of household maintainers who are renting were under 25, the highest percentage among the CMAs, while in Toronto only 5.6% of those renting were under 25 years of age (table 9.4).

In 2005, comparing the three largest CMAs in Canada, households in Montreal spent the lowest proportion of their income on Shelter (18.4%) and Transportation (11.5%) but the highest proportion on Food (12.1%) compared to households in Vancouver and Toronto. Among households in the selected CMAs, those in Toronto spent the lowest proportion of their incomes on Food (9.4%) and Healthcare (2%) but the highest on Personal Taxes (23.6%). While among the 3 largest CMAs, families in Vancouver spent the lowest proportion of their incomes on Personal Taxes (18.5%) but spent the most on Shelter (21%) compared to those in Toronto and Montreal (table 9.8 and chart 9.2).

Chart 9.2 Percentage of household expenditure, selected metropolitan areas, 2005
Source(s):  Income Statistics Division, Survey of Household Spending (Survey 3508).

Of all the selected CMAs, households in Toronto (3.3%) and Winnipeg (3.3%) spent the highest proportion of their income on gifts of money and contributions, while those in Halifax and Winnipeg spent the highest proportion of their income on games of chance.

Household equipments

In 2005, Ottawa remained the most wired metropolitan area among the selected metropolitan areas. About 88.1% of households in Ottawa reported that they own a computer at home and 85.5% of households reported that they access the internet from home. On the other hand, Saint John (NB) reported both the lowest proportion of households accessing the internet from home (58.3%) and the lowest proportion of households owning a computer at home (66.6%) (table 9.13).

DVD players have become popular electronic gadgets in Canada in recent years. Among the selected metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, households in Yellowknife (93.2%), Ottawa (89.7%) and Calgary (88.6%) reported the highest percentage of ownership of DVD players.

Business establishments

In 2005, on average, 4.5% of industries in all the CMAs were manufacturing establishments. However, the percentage of manufacturing establishments to the total number of establishments in CMAs varied, ranging from a low of 2.8% in Regina to a high of 6.4% in Kitchener. Only 10 of the 27 CMAs (which was the total number of CMAs in 2005) had higher proportions of manufacturing establishments than the average for all the CMAs (table 9.10).

From 2004-2005, CMAs as a whole lost about 7.3% of their manufacturing establishments. Montreal, which is important more specifically for clothing, leather and aerospace manufacturing, was severely hit by this contraction, losing about 14.8% of its manufacturing establishments. Nevertheless, among the three largest CMAs, Montreal (5.6%) had the highest proportion of business establishments in the manufacturing industry, followed by Toronto (4.9%) and then Vancouver (4.1%). Also, CMAs in Ontario (excluding the National Capital region) accounted for 44% of all manufacturing establishments in all CMAs put together (table 9.10).

Toronto remains the financial capital of Canada, hosting the highest concentration of Finance and Insurance establishments, (about 1 in every 3 establishments or (31.8%) of such establishments in all the selected CMAs). Toronto is also an important arts and cultural centre for English Canada, accounting for about 34% of all establishments in performing arts industry, 38.9% of the total number of motion picture and sound recording establishments and 30.7% of publishing industries (except internet) in all of the CMAs (table 9.10).

Among the three largest CMAs, Vancouver (1.5%) has the highest proportion of establishments in the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting industries compared to Toronto (0.6%) and Montreal (1%) (table 9.10).

The workforce

In 2006, the services sector (79%) employed the largest number of people in all of the CMAs put together (table 9.10.). The main employers were in the Trade (20%) Health Care and Social Assistance (13%) Professional, Scientific and Technical services (10%) and Finance, Insurance, and Real estate industries (9%) (table 9.5).

Halifax (87.7%) and Ottawa (87.5%) recorded the highest share of workers employed in the services sector, while Kitchener (67.8%) had the lowest share of its employed workforce in the services sector. A total of 14 out of the 27 CMAs had a lower proportion of their labour force employed in the services sector than the average for all the CMAs.

The goods producing sector accounted for 21% of employment, with manufacturing accounting for 12.4% of total employment a slight drop from 13% in 2005, and construction, 6% (table 9.5).

Windsor and Kitchener, recorded the highest proportion of their workforce being involved in manufacturing 26.5% (down from 30%) and 24.7% respectively in the previous year. These two CMAs were also the least dependent on employment in the services sector. On the other hand, workers in St John’s (3.9%) Sudbury (4.0%) and Victoria (4.2%) were the least likely of employees in the selected CMAs to be engaged in the manufacturing industry (table 9.5).


In 2006, among the selected CMAs, Calgary (+4.6%) recorded the biggest increase in prices between 2005 and 2006 (table 9.12). This increase is attributable primarily to continually rising costs paid by homeowners in Alberta. Calgary’s CPI rate was more than double the annual national rate (2.0%) in 2006. 2  Also, between 2002 and 2006, Calgary (+12.3%) and Edmonton (+12%) recorded the steepest rise in prices among the selected CMAs. Residents of Thunder Bay (+6.9%) experienced the smallest increase in prices for the same period (table 9.12).

Property crimes

In 2006, about 1.17 million crimes committed with the intent to acquire property without violence or the threat of violence (property crime) were reported to the police. This represented a 4% decline in the numbers of these crimes compared to 2005. The most common of these crimes were thefts, break and enters, auto thefts and fraud.

Break and Enters accounted for 21.4% of all property crimes in Canada in 2006. There were about 250,000 break-ins reported to the police in 2006, of which almost six in ten were into residences. Both residential and commercial break-ins declined last year, and the rate of break-ins in Canada dropped to its lowest level in over 30 years. The decline in many communities has been attributed to pro-active police crime fighting programs targeting break-ins in specific high-risk neighbourhoods. Another contributing factor may be an increase in the use of home security devices by Canadians. 3 

The decline in break-ins was seen all over the country except in Quebec, where it remained stable. Quebec City and Ottawa-Gatineau (Quebec part) were the only CMAs in Quebec that saw declines in the numbers of break and enters (table 9.21).

In a pattern that closely mimics the geographic distribution of crime in Canada, 4 of the 5 CMAs that had rates of over 1000 break ins per 100,000 people in 2006 were in Western Canada. This group includes Regina (1,487 per 100,000) which saw a 15.5% decline in its rate but still holds the unenviable title as the break and entry capital of Canada. Among the 3 largest CMAs, Vancouver had the highest rate of break and enters per 100,000 people (1,120.9) while Toronto had the lowest rate (403.6) (table 9.22). However, Vancouver was the only one among the three largest CMAs to register a decline in the number of break and enters (-4.9%) (table 9.21).

Overall, the auto theft numbers in Canada declined by 2% in 2006. Montreal accounted for about 20% of the total number of auto thefts in all of the 27 CMAs (table 9.20). Thirteen of the twenty-seven CMAs recorded increases in their auto theft rates. The largest increases were in Calgary (47.1%) and Victoria (+46.8%) while the biggest decline in the auto theft rates was recorded in Vancouver (-23.6%) (table 9.20).