Census 2016: Western provinces’ populations are the fastest-growing in Canada As of last year’s census day, there were 35,151,728 people in Canada, and nearly one in three now live in the West. That was one of the important takeaways from the first of Statscan’s reports, which will give policy makers, urban planners and businesses a clearer picture of the nation in 2016. Canada’s population growth is shifting ever westward, as the latest census results show the Prairie region and British Columbia leading the country in growth. For the first time since Confederation the three Prairie provinces all rank at the top of provincial growth charts, nosing out a slowing Ontario. British Columbia, in fourth place, also grew at a rate higher than the national average. Nearly one in three residents now live in Western Canada, the highest share ever recorded. Statistics Canada counted a total of 35,151,728 people living in Canada on the day of the census, May 10, 2016. Over the five years since the previous census the population grew at a rate of about one percentage point a year, or 5 per cent overall, for a total of 1.7 million additional residents since 2011. Global context As it has been for the last 15 years, Canada remains the fastest-growing country in the G7 group of industrialized nations, with a growth rate which exceeds those of the United States and the United Kingdom. Canada ranked eighth among the G20 nations, behind countries such as Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and Australia. Alberta was the fastest-growing province in Canada again during this period. Despite the downturn in the provincial economy in the past two years, Alberta grew by a total of 11.6 per cent over the period, an even faster rate of growth than from 2006 to 2011 and more than twice the national average. That growth slowed following the drop in the price of oil, but not enough to change what has become a long-established pattern as people both within Canada and from abroad head West in search of economic opportunity. Saskatchewan, which was shrinking in the 1990s, grew at the second-fastest rate, just as it did in the previous census period. It has similarly benefited from a resource-intensive economy that attracted a lot of workers in the early part of this decade before the economy began to slow. Manitoba jumped into third place among provinces with a 5.8-per-cent rate of growth. It’s the first time in 80 years that Manitoba grew more quickly than the national average. The province has succeeded in attracting a greater share of international migration in recent years. Like the other Prairie provinces, Manitoba has a significant indigenous population, which is much younger than the population in general and has a higher birth rate. British Columbia slipped to fourth place in its rate of growth at 5.6 per cent, although it was still the third-largest province. Slower growth in Ontario Ontario grew by 4.6 per cent, the second consecutive census period in which it grew at a rate slower than the national average. It’s the first time that’s happened since the Second World War. Ontario still has by far the largest share of the national population, with more than 13 million people, or 38 per cent of Canada’s population. The main reason for its slower growth is that it received proportionally fewer immigrants over the past five years. Quebec’s rate of growth was below the national average, a trend that’s been in place since the end of the 1960s. Its share of national population, which was nearly 29 per cent in 1966, fell to slightly more than 23 per cent in 2016. Quebec passed the eight million mark in overall population, and the Montreal area surpassed four million for the first time, meaning half the provincial population is concentrated around its biggest city. The Atlantic provinces had much lower rates of growth in this census period. New Brunswick’s population declined over the past five years by 0.5 per cent. Prince Edward Island had the highest growth rate in the Atlantic at 1.9 per cent, followed by Newfoundland at 1 per cent. Nova Scotia barely grew, with an increase of just 0.2 per cent. The region is growing more slowly because it attracts few immigrants, and many people choose to move to other provinces, chiefly Alberta and Ontario. In 2014 the number of deaths exceeded the number of births in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Toronto’s population surpassed 5.9 million, but it grew at a slower rate in this census period, at about 6 per cent, compared to more than 9 per cent from 2006 to 2011. Montreal topped four million for the first time in 2011, and Vancouver had nearly 2.5 million. The five fastest growing cities were all in the prairies, led by Calgary and Edmonton, which both surpassed 1.3 million residents, and Saskatoon and Regina (295,000 and 236,000), respectively. Just two of Canada’s large cities, known as CMAs (census metropolitan areas), shrunk in this census period – Windsor and Thunder Bay. The census counted more than 14 million private dwellings in 2016, an increase of 5.6 per cent over 2011, a slightly slower rate of increase than in the previous census period. Roughly two-thirds of the growth in population is due to migration, or the amount by which the number of new immigrants exceed the number of people who leave Canada. The other third comes from what’s known as “natural growth,” the difference between births and deaths. Some countries, such as Germany, Italy and Japan, have already seen the annual number of deaths exceed births, meaning all their growth now depends on migration. Projections show that Canada may reach the point where migration accounts for all population growth around 2050. The census results released Wednesday were the first in a series scheduled to come out over the course of 2017. These results are taken from the short-form census questionnaire and not the long form, which was reinstated for 2016 after being replaced by the voluntary National Household Survey.