Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada
Quarterly Demographic Estimates

January to March 2008


Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.


On April 1, 2008, Canada’s population stood at 33,223,800, up 80,200 from January 1, 2008. At 0.24%, this was the strongest population growth since 2002 for a first quarter (0.27%).

International migration accounted for most of the population growth in Canada. Over the first three months of 2008, the country’s net international migration was 60,200, the highest for a 1st quarter since 2002 (62,800). At this same time last year, the balance was 52,300.

Canada welcomed 53,100 immigrants in the first three months of 2008. This was higher than for the first three months of 2007 (47,900) but still in the ballpark of the average observed for 1st quarters since the start of the millennium (53,200).

Chart 1 Quarterly aggregated demographic components, January to March, 1974 to 2008, Canada

While Ontario remained at the top of the list for immigrants as a place of residence, it has gradually been losing its appeal. In the 1st quarter of 2008, Ontario took in 44.2% of new immigrants. The last time it was any lower than this (43.9%) was in the 2nd quarter of 1983.

Nonetheless, immigration remained strong in the first quarter in Ontario, the third highest (annualized rate of 7.3 per thousand) after Prince Edward Island (9.6 per thousand) and British Columbia (9.1 per thousand). Manitoba (6.9 per thousand) was the only other province to post a higher immigration rate than that of Canada as a whole (6.4 per thousand).

More and more non-permanent residents

The increase in the number of non-permanent residents has been particularly strong over the past few quarters, and the 1st quarter of 2008 was no exception. The balance of 16,300 non-permanent residents reported over the first three months of the year was the highest for a first quarter since 1990 (17,700). By way of comparison, this balance was 13,600 people over the same period in 2007, and the average balance of non-permanent residents has been up to 10,300 people for the first quarters of the 2000-2007 period.

The change in the number of non-permanent residents varied from province to province. Over the first three months of 2008, Alberta had the strongest increase (an annualized rate of 4.6 per thousand). This was a record for this province in a 1st quarter.

Chart 2 Net non-permanent residents, provinces and territories, January to March, 2007 and 2008, Canada

The net increase in the number of non-permanent residents was also higher in British Columbia (annualized rate of 2.3 per thousand) and Ontario (2.1 per thousand), which were, with Alberta, the only provinces to post a higher rate than that of Canada as a whole (2.0 per thousand).

Some other provinces also posted a marked increase in the number of non-permanent residents. Newfoundland and Labrador reported a net balance that had not been observed for a first quarter since 1992. The same applied to Quebec, whose balance (+2,200) was higher than any recorded, for the three first months of a year, since 1990. Like Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory also posted higher net figures than ever before for a 1st quarter.

A stable natural increase

The natural growth observed in the first three months of 2008 (20,000) was similar to that for the previous year for the same period (19,800). The number of births in the country was estimated at 86,000, the highest ever for a 1st quarter since 1996 (90,000). For a third consecutive year, the number of Canadian births rose. However this rise was offset by the number of deaths, which is to be expected in an ageing population.

The level of natural growth differed by province. It was decreasing and negative in the Atlantic provinces, but on the rise in Quebec and Alberta. Alberta’s natural growth rate (annualized rate of 6.1 per thousand) was the highest of all provinces in Canada.

Interprovincial migration changing

The growth in the natural resource sector is changing the demographic mix in Canada. It started with the boom in Alberta, which by the 3rd quarter of 2004 was affecting the picture in every part of the country, at a time when Alberta was posting interprovincial net migration levels seldom seen before.

Since mid-2007, Alberta’s appeal has waned, and most other parts of the country have seen their net migration improve. In addition, other hot spots have developed, in particular Saskatchewan.

Chart 3 Net interprovincial migration, provinces and territories, January to March, 2006 to 2008, Canada

Compared to the 1st quarter of 2007, the biggest changes in terms of interprovincial migration were observed in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and the Yukon Territory. After some heavy losses in 2007, these three jurisdictions posted relatively high gains in 2008 for the same period.

For the first time since 1991, Newfoundland and Labrador posted positive interprovincial net migration for a first quarter. The last time Nova Scotia experienced this for the first three months of the year was in 1984. The same applies for the Yukon, which posted its strongest interprovincial balance for a 1st quarter.

Losing more than it gained in its interprovincial exchanges with other parts of the country for all 1st quarters since 1984, Saskatchewan is now posting gains for a second consecutive year, even setting a record in 2008. Its annualized rate of 7.3 per thousand was the highest of all provinces in the first three months of 2008.

Three other provinces posted rates higher than 1 per thousand: Nova Scotia (annualized rate of 1.7 per thousand), Newfoundland and Labrador (1.6 per thousand) and British Columbia (1.6 per thousand). In the latter case, this represented a decrease compared to 2007 for the same period. At that time, the province’s rate was 2.3 per thousand, placing it third among provinces behind Alberta and Saskatchewan.

As a result of these changes in interprovincial migration trends, provinces that have had negative net migration for several years, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, are now experiencing population growth.

Thus, the population of Newfoundland and Labrador is increasing for a third consecutive quarter. Not since 1992 has anything resembling this growth been observed for a 1st quarter. Newfoundland and Labrador’s gains, as well as those in Canada other jurisdictions, largely explained this situation. Although the province lost 1,800 people in the 1st quarter of 2007, it gained 200 a year later.

Chart 4 Quarterly variation of population estimates, Canada, provinces and territories, January to March, 2007 and 2008

The same applies for Saskatchewan, which posted its strongest growth ever for a 1st quarter. The province’s population increased for an eighth consecutive quarter, after an almost uninterrupted decrease since 1999. In addition to its positive interprovincial migration, the province saw its net international migration rise. In the first three months of 2008, the province welcomed close to 1,000 immigrants, a record for a 1st quarter.

Continued stronger growth in the West

Demographic growth keeps being faster west of Ontario. While Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia took the three first ranks amongst provinces, Manitoba is not far behind with a growth just below than that of the country taken as a whole.

Despite much smaller interprovincial migration gains when compared to last year’s 1st quarter, Alberta ranked first among the provinces in terms of population growth. However, the province grew much less steadily than in the past few years. Not since 2004 had its growth been as weak for a 1st quarter.

The province owes its growth not only to natural growth—by far the strongest in the country—but also to a significant boost in its net international migration. In the first three months of 2008, the province took in 5,300 immigrants and its number of non-permanent residents posted a net increase of 4,000, both records for a 1st quarter.

It should also be noted that Alberta’s net interprovincial gains followed two consecutive quarters of losses. Nonetheless, Alberta’s gains in the 1st quarter of 2008 (700) were small compared to the same quarter in the previous year (7,400). Not since 1995 has the province had such weak net interprovincial migration for a 1st quarter (400).

Despite a slightly smaller population growth compared to the previous year for the same period, Manitoba’s growth rate remained higher than ever since the mid-1980s. This slight dip is attributed to the fact that the province’s net international migration fell slightly compared to the 1st quarter of 2007. Nonetheless, Manitoba continues to post one of the highest immigration rates in the country, and for a ninth consecutive quarter it took in more than 2,000 immigrants.

Manitoba is also one of the provinces that has benefited the most from Alberta’s petering boom. From January to March 2008, the province’s net interprovincial migration was positive (+ 100), compared to its losses in the same period of the previous year (- 200). This was the province’s strongest interprovincial gain for a 1st quarter since 1999.

Just like Manitoba, even though British Columbia’s growth fell slightly compared to the same period in the previous year, it nonetheless posted Canada’s third strongest provincial growth. Moreover, it was the only province, along with Saskatchewan and Alberta, to post a population growth higher than that for Canada as a whole.

Smaller interprovincial migration gains, which nonetheless remained the highest in the country, account for this smaller growth in British Columbia. It should be noted that, aside from its largely positive exchanges with Alberta, this province had a negative net interprovincial balance with the rest of the country.

The province remains one of the provinces with the highest net international migration rate in the country. Second only to Prince Edward Island in terms of its net international migration rate, British Columbia posted its highest rate (annualized rate of 9.8 per thousand) since 1997 for a first quarter.

Growth for the Atlantic provinces

The Atlantic provinces are also benefiting from changing trends in Canada’s demographics. Despite an increasingly negative natural growth rate, the populations of the fourth provinces to the east of Quebec increased in the first three months of 2008. The last time this happened for a 1st quarter was in 1992.

Prince Edward Island had its strongest population growth since 1983 for a 1st quarter. The province owes this mainly to a sharp increase in its international net migration. It took in a record number of immigrants (300) for a 1st quarter.

Nova Scotia had its strongest population growth since 1991 for a 1st quarter. The province’s population rose for a fourth consecutive quarter, largely because of a marked increase in its net international migration. The province took in more immigrants than ever before since 1997, and posted its strongest balance of non-permanent residents since 2002 for a 1st quarter. The province’s growth is noteworthy in that it has Canada’s most negative natural growth rate.

The province also had positive net interprovincial migration (+ 400) in the 1st quarter, after posting losses for the same period in the previous year (- 900). It owes this change mainly to its demographic exchanges with Alberta, whose balance rose from – 1,100 to + 50.

New Brunswick’s population grew for a sixth consecutive quarter, largely thanks to a record net international migration (+ 500) for a 1st quarter. Not since 1975 had the province taken in so many immigrants for a 1st quarter. Its net interprovincial migration was positive for a fifth consecutive quarter, and was the highest for a 1st quarter since 2004.

Growth at the centre weaker than for the country as a whole

In the first three months of 2008, Ontario’s population growth rose compared to the same period in the previous year. A drop in interprovincial migration net losses and an increase in the net international migration account for this province’s situation.

Nonetheless, the province is currently experiencing its weakest population growth since the early 1980s. This is the second consecutive quarter in which the province grows more slowly than the country. Ontario’s smaller growth, when compared to that of the previous decades, is attributed to a number of factors: other than the decrease in its natural growth, a common occurrence in almost every part of the country, the province’s net international migration is no longer as strong as in the past, and the province is now often in the red in terms of its exchanges with other parts of the country.

Quebec posted its strongest growth since 1992 for a 1st quarter. A number of factors account for this situation. First of all, the province’s natural growth is currently high compared to mid-1990 levels because of the highest number of births for a 1st quarter since 1995 and a lower than usual number of deaths. In addition, the province posted its strongest net international migration since 1989 for a 1st quarter thanks to a large influx of international immigrants and the strongest net increase in non-permanent residents in a 1st quarter since 1990.

The Yukon Territory makes a mark in the north

For a third consecutive quarter, the Yukon surpassed the other northern territories in population growth. In the first three months of 2008, it had the strongest growth of all Canadian jurisdictions (0.91%), at a level not seen for a 1st quarter since 1992.

The Yukon posted its strongest gains from interprovincial migration for a 1st quarter since 1988. In addition, it had a record international migration balance largely because of a strong increase in its number of non-permanent residents.

For a fourth consecutive year, the population of the Northwest Territories fell in the 1st quarter. It was the only jurisdiction in Canada to post a population decrease in the first three months of 2008. This decrease was largely attributable to its higher losses from interprovincial migration.

As for Nunavut, its population was still rising, but much more slowly than for the 1st quarters of the past few years. In the first three months of 2008, Nunavut had one of the weakest growth rates in its short history. Whereas last year the territory posted a positive net interprovincial migration (+ 100), this year it was in the red (- 100). Rarely in the past had such losses been observed for a 1st quarter.