OTTAWA—The population in provinces west of Ontario has surpassed that to the east of Canada’s largest province.
According to 2011 census data, the provinces west of Ontario now make up 30.7 per cent of Canada’s population, compared to 30.6 per cent for Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
Statistics Canada said the western provinces are attracting growing numbers of immigrants and eastern Canadians over increased job opportunities.
Aside from the promise of jobs and wealth linked to the oilpatch, the allure of the west is also trade routes, said Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation.
As the centre of the global economy shifts from Europe and the U.S. to Asia, Gibbins said, Canada’s Pacific trade routes are more important than the Atlantic trade routes.
Large metropolitan areas ballooned by 7.4 per cent between 2006 and 2011, far above the national growth rate of 5.9, while small towns grew by 4.2 per cent and 1.7 per cent in rural areas.
“Seven in 10 Canadians live in large metropolitan areas and that’s increasing in each census,” said Jane Badets, Statistics Canada’s director general of social and demographic statistics.
Young job-seekers in small towns see less opportunities and move to the nearest city, said Don McIver, director of research at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.
While Halifax’s population grew by 4.7 per cent over five years, Nova Scotia’s population remained stagnant.
The fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country were Calgary and Edmonton. The only metropolitan areas to show a decline were Windsor, Ont., one of Canada’s fastest growing green energy hubs, and forestry-based Thunder Bay, Ont.
Business leadership is shifting West too, with Toronto ceding ground to Calgary and Vancouver.
“All economic eyes in the past were very much on how well Toronto was doing,” Gibbins said. “That’s changing…. Toronto is a second thought.”