Canada Population Growth, 2016 to 2021

What is this map?

This map shows Canada’s population growth in all its census divisions between 2016 and 2021 – the last two census years. Census divisions (CD’s) generally correspond to provincial regions, counties, and administrative areas. For example, Waterloo Region in Ontario is a census division, and so is Hants County in Nova Scotia. While many census divisions are simply numbered, their boundaries usually have real-world meaning since CD’s are essentially geographical divisions legislated by our provinces and territories.

What do we see in the map?

As expected, there is the usual growth in the suburbs around our population centres.  The usual suspects are here – the GTA in southern Ontario, the as-expected growth in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver’s lower mainland, etc. And, there is the typical negative, neutral, or nominal population growth in our rural, northern, and interior regions, e.g., compare northern Saskatchewan and northern Ontario to their southern counterparts.  Or, compare much of Newfoundland and Labrador and interior New Brunswick to regions with more prevalent cities and towns. The march of the nation’s peoples to the cities continue.

A Covid effect?

A potential outlier exists in the internal migration caused by Covid. We can’t confirm anything by this dataset alone (cf., taxfiler data and pending future census releases), but the growth around Halifax interests me. Halifax is a prosperous, thriving city, but I suspect the entire area has seen a bump in growth from Covid-related migration. Another potential example would be the growth in destination/resort and exurban areas beyond Toronto’s surburbs.  Collingwood is an example of this, and perhaps Windsor as well.  I’m sure many parts of Canada have examples like this.  How much of this growth is caused by Covid, and is permanent is too soon to tell.

Notes and Caveats

  • This map is based on actual Statistics Canada 2021 census data, as is the shapefile (i.e., the polygons)
  • This map is for illustrative purposes only.  I know the statistical data, but the most accurate representation on a map, you should go to a proper GIS expert.
    • Shading on the map is a comparison of population growth from one census division to another, across the country. (This can affect the representation of the census divisions and therefore is problematic.)
    • Including the north and interior regions in a map with all our population centres will skew the representation.  (This can affect the representation of the census divisions and therefore is problematic.)
  • This map uses a modified Jenks classification.  What this means is that the categories are automated by an algorithm that reduces the variance (or: increases the similarity) within the different classes of data while maximizing the variance between these classes.  I’ve modified two classes slightly to ensure that 0% change is a delineator.
    • See a decent plain language summary of the Jenks classification method here.