How Ontario Grows

There is a dataset on Statistics Canada that summarizes the components of population growth for the country, and provinces and territories themselves. I decided to collect the data for Ontario to examine what contributed to population growth over the last 30 years.

The three major components of population growth in Ontario are –

  1. Natural Increase
    • Determined by subtracting Deaths from Births
  2. Net International Migrants
    • Determined by subtracting Emigrants from Immigrants + Non-Permanent Residents
  3. Net Interprovincial Migrants
    • Determined by subtracting Out-Migrants from In-Migrants

The three major components of population growth in Ontario since 1971 are shown in figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – Components of Population Growth in Ontario, 1971 – 2016
All COmponents

As with most industrialized countries, the natural increase has been falling for a number of decades as people are marrying later and having fewer children, and due to graying demographics. In contrast are Ontario’s immigration levels (shown as the red line in figure 1 above), which have skyrocketed since the 1980s in response to a declining natural increase, and have accounted for the majority of population growth in Ontario over the last two decades. Finally, the smallest contributor to Ontario’s population growth has been interprovincial migration, which interestingly appeared to have an inverse relationship with immigration levels during the 1970s and 1980s.

The next few charts show the individual components of population growth –

Figure 2 – Annual Births and Deaths in Ontario, 1971 – 2016
Births Deaths

Interesting ebb and flow with annual births in Ontario since the 1970s. If you were to extend the data further back to the 1940s, you would see three “baby booms” –

  • One during the 1950s and early 1960s (known as the baby boom generation);
  • One during the 1980s and early 1990s (known as the millennial generation); and,
  • One we are currently in the midst of (children of the millennial generation?).

Figure 3 – Annual Immigration and Emigration Levels in Ontario, 1971 – 2016
Immigration Emigration

Immigration levels surged during the 1980s likely due to the Immigration Act and the Multiculturalism Act, as well as robust economic conditions in Ontario. The uptick in immigration levels over the last two years is due to the large numbers of non-permanent residents. Non-permanent residents also contributed significantly to the growing immigration levels during the 1980s.

Figure 4 – Annual In- and Out-Migration Levels in Ontario, 1971 – 2016
In and Out Migrants

Another interesting cyclical trend is evident when looking at interprovincial migration in and out of Ontario since the 1970s. The 1980s saw huge interprovincial migration into Ontario mostly from Quebec, Alberta and BC. The 2000s saw exodus of Ontarians into other provinces, namely Alberta. Lately however, there has been an uptick of interprovincial migration into Ontario. For instance, the recent drop in oil prices resulted in a growing number of Albertans moving to Ontario.

And finally, a chart showing the net annual population growth in Ontario –

Figure 5 – Annual Net Population Growth in Ontario, 1971 – 2016
Net Pop



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