September 6, 2013
Profiling Canada’s six largest cities (Part 1)
How urbanized is Canada? Here’s a statistic that may surprise you. Nearly one in every two Canadians lives in our six largest cities.
Toronto has the highest population, 5.9 million, followed by Montreal (4.0 million), Vancouver (2.5 million), Calgary and Ottawa-Gatineau (each 1.3 million) and Edmonton (1.2 million).
These population figures are for Statistics Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs). The boundaries in CMA designations include downtown cores and surrounding highly-integrated suburbs.
The latest year-over-year gain in population in Toronto was a stunning +100,000. That’s the equivalent of a new city on its own.
But four of the other five cities also picked up a large number of new residents — Montreal and Calgary, both +40,000; Vancouver, +37,000; and Edmonton, +33,000.
Ottawa-Gatineau trailed with +17,000.
With the exception of Ottawa-Gatineau, the largest urban centers are dominant in their home provinces. Vancouver’s population is 53% of the B.C. total. Montreal is 49% of Quebec. Toronto is 44% of Ontario.
Calgary and Edmonton account for about one-third of Alberta’s census count, with the former at 34% and the latter at 32%.
Citizens of our nation’s capital are spread out between two provinces, with three-quarters on the Ontario side and one-quarter on the Quebec side.
The percentage shares are sometimes even more impressive when one looks at provincial housing starts. Thanks to roaring condominium markets, Vancouver’s proportion of B.C.’s new home starts last year was an outsized 69%, while Toronto relative to Ontario was 63%.
A further eye-popping statistic is that one in six Canadians lives in the Toronto CMA. Toronto is a “behemoth” on the national scene.
Toronto has a strong financial sector, excellent academic institutions, vibrant broadcasting, communications and entertainment companies and ongoing manufacturing activity, with a solid base of auto assembly plants.
There is a sobering note to record, however. The future of Ontario’s auto industry may be threatened by the adoption of “right to work” legislation in next-door Michigan. Such laws promote the use of cheaper non-union labour ahead of organized workers.
Construction activity in Toronto is currently being headlined by transit projects — Union Station renovation and improvements; a rail line to Pearson Airport and beyond to Georgetown; the Crosstown Eglinton Avenue light rail transit line; and a possible Sheppard East subway route.
The city is gearing up to host the 2015 PanAm Games, which will see the participation of more athletes than gather in one place during the Olympics.
Several of our other major cities have starred on the international stage. Montreal has enjoyed double exposure, welcoming the globe to Expo 67 and providing the venue for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.
Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and Vancouver-Whistler was the focus of world attention in the winter of 2010.
A coalition of community leaders in Toronto has asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider, at least for now, cancellation of Canada’s membership in the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). The city is considering making a bid for the 2025 World’s Fair.
Earlier this year, Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford, was the subject of intense media coverage in North America stemming from an alleged crack cocaine smoking incident that was supposedly caught on video.
Lately, however, Mr. Ford’s possibly wayward antics have been eclipsed by Anthony Weiner, seeking to become the Mayor of New York, and Bob Filner, who has been forced to resign as Mayor of San Diego.
The former has become notorious for his addiction to “sexting” and the latter for the scope and persistence of his inappropriate behaviour towards female staff members in his orbit.
This just proves that when it comes to political scandals, sex trumps drugs.
Montreal has many of the same pluses as Toronto — a widely diverse economy, with a perhaps even more sophisticated edge, a factor that may depend on the mind of the beholder.
But the “Quebec model”, featuring intense government participation in the business sector, is showing considerable wear and tear. The relationship has become too cozy. How else to account for the descent into disgrace by so many politicians at the municipal level?
Kickback allegations have necessitated a cleaning of the house in Montreal’s city hall.
The Charbonneau Commission has been needed to plumb the depths of corruption swirling around elected officials and the construction industry.
Quebeckers have been placing cultural issues ahead of economic concerns for decades. This is a lifestyle choice. But there is a cost in terms of jobs and incomes.
Quebec society has been embracing secularism since breaking free from its religious ties in the middle of the last century. The latest manifestation of this trend can be found in the Charter of Values being proposed by the minority-ruling Parti Quebecois.
This new set of aspirations will further ban the prevalence of religious symbolism in the province. Roman Catholics are generally keen on the idea. The Jewish Community, Muslims, Sikhs and others aren’t nearly as warm to the notion.
In the meantime, hydraulic fracturing — the source of a huge boom in employment and energy development in the U.S. — has been banned in the province.
Among Canada’s six most populous cities, Montreal currently lays claim to the highest unemployment rate, 8.2%, although that’s not terribly out of line with Toronto’s 7.8%.
Ottawa-Gatineau (6.7%) and Vancouver (6.6%) have jobless rates below the national average (7.2%), while Calgary (5.3%) and Edmonton (4.8%) are nation-leaders in providing gainful employment for their work forces.
Montreal’s economy needs a shot in the arm. If this is to come, the two most likely sources would be a surge in aircraft orders and/or a massive new investment in aluminum-smelting capacity in the province.
To be continued in Economy at a Glance Vol. 9, Issue 98.