Section 1: Total demographic estimates

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This section presents mainly preliminary population estimates for Canada, provinces and territories on July 1, 2013, along with a detailed analysis of components of population growth. It is worthwhile mentioning that population estimates released today are now based on the 2011 Census counts adjusted 1  for coverage. Therefore, a brief analysis on the impact of this rebasing and on intercensal growth over the last two cycles is included. Finally, an historical analysis of population shares of provinces and territories over the last 30 years is also presented.

National portrait

Population and growth

On July 1, 2013, Canada’s population was estimated at 35,158,300, up 404,000 or 1.2% 2  over the last year (2012/2013). This increase was equal to the one observed in the previous year (2011/2012) and similar to the average increase for the last 30 years (+1.1%). Except for the period between 1986 and 1990, the overall population growth rate has shown little variation in 30 years, ranging between 0.8% and 1.2%.

Rebasing (2011)

The estimates released in this publication are now based on the 2011 Census adjusted for census net undercoverage and partially enumerated Indian reserves. Population estimates between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2011 have become intercensal. The postcensal estimates on July 1, 2011 have been revised and lowered by 171,115, for an error of closure of 0.50%. This error is higher than the level recorded in 2001 (0.16%) and 2006 (0.14%).

The error of closure is a measure of accuracy of the postcensal estimates. It is defined as the difference between the final postcensal estimate on Census day and the census population adjusted for coverage. There are two main sources for this error: errors primarily due to sampling when measuring census coverage and errors related to components of population growth during the intercensal period.

Intercensal growth

On July 1, 2011, the estimated population of Canada based on the 2011 Census was 34,342,800. At the national level, intercensal population growth between the 2006 and 2011 censuses was 5.3%, or 1.8 million people. This growth was higher than the level observed in the previous intercensal period 2001/2006 with 4.9%. Between 2006 and 2011, net international migration accounted for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth.

Between 2006 and 2011, Canada’s population growth rate (+5.3%) was the highest among the G8 3  countries for a comparable period, including the United States (+3.4%), the United Kingdom (+3.4%), Italy (+3.1%), France (+2.8%), Japan (+0.1%), Russia (+0.1%) and Germany (-0.8%). Among industrialized countries, Canada’s current population growth fell below the estimated rates for countries such as Luxemburg (+8.7%), Ireland (+7.8%) and Australia (+7.6%).

In general, population growth in the provinces and territories between 2006 and 2011 was greater than the level observed in the period between 2001 and 2006, except in Ontario, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. In addition, the population in all the provinces and territories increased between 2006 and 2011. In contrary, three provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, saw a decline in their populations between 2001 and 2006.

For the 2006/2011 intercensal period, population growth was low in the Atlantic provinces, but high in the Western provinces and the territories. Compared with the national rate (+5.3%), growth was stronger in Nunavut (+10.4%), Alberta (+10.2%), Yukon (+9.3%), Saskatchewan (+7.2%) and British Columbia (+5.9%). In contrast, the population grew more slowly in the Northwest Territories (+0.7%), Nova Scotia (+0.7%) and New Brunswick (1.3%).

Evolution of population share of provinces and territories

In the last 30 years, the populations of the Prairie provinces and British Columbia have grown substantially (+39.5%), while the Atlantic provinces have seen their populations increased only slightly (+3.5%). By comparison, Canada’s population increased by 32.4% during this period. Since 1983, the population share of the Western provinces has increased by 2.2 percentage points, reaching 31.2% on July 1, 2013, compared with a decrease of 2.3 percentage points for the Atlantic provinces for which the population share stands at 6.7%. In turn, the population of Ontario grew about twice as rapidly (+39.8%) as that of Quebec (+21.0%) during this period. Among the provinces, Alberta has recorded the strongest growth since 1983, with an increase of 50.8%. Population growth in the territories was 43.5% for the same period.

Provincial differences in the intensity of the population growth in the past 30 years can be attributed to several factors. For example, interprovincial migration was often more favourable to the Western provinces and less favourable to the Atlantic provinces. Natural increase was generally higher in the Prairie provinces and the territories and lower in the Atlantic provinces. Finally, a greater influx of international migrants was observed in Ontario and British Columbia.

On July 1, 2013, it was estimated that three-quarters of Canadians were living in three provinces: Ontario (38.5%), Quebec (23.2%) and British Columbia (13.0%). Among the provinces, Ontario was still the province with the largest population with 13.5 million people while Prince Edward Island was the smallest with 145,000 people. With close to 8.2 million people, Quebec ranked second in terms of population, followed by British-Columbia with 4.6 million and Alberta, which surpassed 4 million in 2013. Among the territories, estimated population was 35,600 in Nunavut, 36,700 in Yukon and 43,500 in Northwest Territories on July 1, 2013.

Regional profile, 2012/2013

Differential growth of provinces and territories

Population growth can vary greatly among Canada’s provinces and territories. Preliminary estimates  4 for 2012/2013 indicate that population growth was low 5  in the Atlantic provinces, even negative in Nova Scotia (-0.5%), and in general high in the Western provinces. Growth exceeded the national level (+1.2%) in Alberta (+3.4%), Nunavut (+2.5%) and Saskatchewan (+1.9%).

Record levels of net international migration and net interprovincial migration to the province explain this growth in Alberta. In the Atlantic provinces, low growth was mainly explained by a low natural increase and a six-year high losses due to interprovincial migration. Compared with 2011/2012, population growth in 2012/2013 steeply declined in Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Conversely, growth accelerated in Alberta and Nunavut.

Factors of demographic growth

At the national level, population growth is the result of two factors: natural increase and net international migration. Natural increase is the difference between the number of births and deaths. Net international migration basically refers to the number of moves between Canada and abroad, accompanied by a change in usual place of residence; it consists of the following components: immigration, emigration, returning emigrants, net temporary emigration and net non-permanent residents.

International migration is gaining in importance as an engine of Canada’s population growth, and since 1993 it has consistently been the main source of that growth. 6  In 2012/2013, net international migration was responsible for two-thirds (67.7%) of population growth in Canada. By comparison, net international migration 7  accounted on average for one-third (36.2%) of population growth between 1982/1983 and 1992/1993. For the year ending June 30, 2013, net international migration was estimated at 273,400, more than double the figure for natural increase (+130,600).

Natural increase

According to preliminary data, natural increase for the year ending June 30, 2013 was estimated at 130,600, down from 134,100 in the previous year. In 2012/2013, natural increase resulted from the difference between 383,800 births and 253,200 deaths estimated for that year. The number of persons who were added by natural increase in 2012/2013 declined by approximately 3,500 compared with 2011/2012. This is due to the fact that deaths increased more rapidly than births during this period.

The rate of natural increase was 0.4% in 2012/2013, similar to the level observed since 2005/2006. Overall, natural increase was low in the Atlantic provinces and much higher in the territories. For the first time, a province has registered a negative natural growth rate (-0.1%), namely, Newfoundland and Labrador. Nunavut recorded the strongest natural increase (+1.9%) in Canada while Alberta had the strongest (+0.8%) among provinces. Indeed, Alberta has held this title continuously since 1980/1981.


For the year ending June 30, 2013, the estimated number of births was 383,800 in Canada, a slight increase from the previous year (378,800). In 2012/2013, the crude birth rate, which is the ratio between births and the average population during the period, was estimated at 1.1%. In the past year, these rates were higher in the territories and lower in the Atlantic provinces. The highest birth rate was observed in Nunavut (+2.4%), while among the provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan led the way (+1.4%), closely followed by Manitoba (+1.3%). Birth rates of these areas were fuelled by strong fertility rates, as illustrated by the latest total fertility rates (TFR). 8  For a detailed analysis of demographic growth for all components, please refer to the Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada 9  (Catalogue no. 91-209-X).


For the year ending June 30, 2013, the estimated number of deaths was 253,200 in Canada, a slight increase from last year (244,600). This increase in the number of deaths is mainly explained by demographic growth but is also related to population ageing. This means that a greater share of the population is in the older age groups and is then exposed to a higher level of mortality.

In 2012/2013, the crude mortality rate, namely, the ratio between deaths and the average population during the period was estimated at 0.7% in Canada. Rates were lower in the territories and higher in the Atlantic provinces. Compared with 2011/2012, the number of deaths was higher in all provinces and territories. In Canada, the highest mortality rates were observed in all the Atlantic provinces (+0.9%) and in Saskatchewan (+0.9%) while the Northwest Territories (+0.4%) had the lowest rates. Among the provinces, in 2012/2013 Alberta once again registered the lowest mortality rate in Canada (+0.6%), for a 32nd consecutive year. This is related to the fact that Alberta has the youngest population of any province.

International migration

Net international migration was estimated at 273,400 for the year ending June 30, 2013, down from the previous year (+277,400). The net international migration rate reached 0.8% in 2012/2013, a similar level observed in the previous year. In 2012/2013, the net international migration rate was above the national average in three provinces: Alberta (+1.3%), Saskatchewan (+1.2%) and Manitoba (+1.1%).


Nearly 263,000 immigrants took up residence in Canada in the year ending June 30, 2013, a number exceeding 250,000 for a fourth year in a row and higher than in 2011/2012 (+260,100). In 2012/2013, the immigration rate was estimated at 0,8% in Canada. Among the provinces and territories, the highest immigration rates were seen in Manitoba (+1.0%), Saskatchewan (+0.9%) and Alberta (+0,9%).

In recent decades, the regional distribution of immigration in Canada has changed. In 2012/2013, Ontario continued to be the Canadian province receiving the most immigrants. However, this trend has tended to diminish in the last few years. On average between 1982/1983 and 2007/2008, Ontario welcomed between 44.3% and 59.6% of all immigrants coming to Canada. In 2012/2013, only 40.2% of Canada’s immigrants settled in that province. This was its second lowest proportion since 1971/1972, which is the first year covered by the current demographic accounting system.

Compared with 2011/2012, more immigrants settled in Ontario (+4,500), Alberta (+2,300) and Québec (+1,700) in 2012/2013. Lastly, two provinces in 2012/2013 received a record number of immigrants: Quebec (+56,000) and Alberta (+36,800). Saskatchewan welcomed its second highest number of immigrants (+9,800).

Net non-permanent residents

Net non-permanent residents represent the change in the number of non-permanent residents between two dates. For the year ending June 30, 2013, net non-permanent residents stood at +49,300, down 11.9% from the level (+56,000) observed in 2011/2012. Net non-permanent residents were positive in 2012/2013 in all provinces. The highest number of net non-permanent residents was observed in Alberta with +19,600, followed by British-Columbia with +11,500 and Ontario with +7,500. And lastly, net non-permanent residents stood at record levels for two provinces: Manitoba (+1,900) and Saskatchewan (+3,900).

Emigration, returning emigration and net temporary emigration

Preliminary estimates indicate that in 2012/2013, 57,100 Canadians emigrated, 36,600 emigrants returned to Canada on a permanent basis and net temporary emigration stood at 18,400. Based on these three components, net emigration  10 can therefore be estimated at nearly 38,900 for the year ending June 30, 2013. Net emigration was concentrated in three provinces, Ontario (+14,700), British Colombia (+12,000) and Quebec (+9,200). The net emigration rate was above the national average (0.1%) only in British Columbia (0.3%).

Interprovincial migration

At the provincial and territorial level, population growth results not only from natural increase and net international migration, but also from net interprovincial migration. This is the change in the size of a population during a given period as a result of population movements between Canada’s provinces and territories, accompanied by a change in usual place of residence.

For the year ending June 30, 2013, net interprovincial migration was positive for only two provinces: Alberta (+52,700 or 1.3%) and Saskatchewan (+1,800 or 0.2%). In 2012/13, Alberta was the only province for which net interprovincial migration has increased compared with 2011/2012. Alberta mainly benefited from migratory exchanges with certain provinces, with net gains of +22,400 from Ontario, +11,200 from British Columbia, +4,900 from Nova Scotia and +4,200 from Quebec.

In 2012/2013, most interprovincial in-migrants to Quebec were from Ontario (64.2%) and most interprovincial out-migrants from British Columbia went to Alberta (56.9%). Finally, net interprovincial migration was at a 6-year low in the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba, a 5-year low in Quebec, an 11-year low in British Colombia and a 32-year low in Ontario.

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