October 9, 2013
Canadian provincial population trends are being torn asunder (Part 1)
Statistics Canada has just published its annual wrap-up of population growth in Canada, entitled Annual Demographic Estimates: Canada, Provinces and Territories: 2013 (catalogue number 91-215-X).
There may be only a certain number of Canadians who find this fascinating reading, but count me among them. Let’s see if I can make the data palatable. There’s a lot to chew on.
The statistical tables offer a snapshot of what is happening in the country, with implications for the economy, the nation’s social structure and the governing framework.
The latest results are based on the 2011 Census count. The figures aren’t for calendar years. Rather, the annual numbers cover the back half of one year and the first half of the next.
For example, the latest year results are for July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013.
In the most current period, the nation’s population rose by 404,000. The prior year, the figure was 412,000. Those have been the only two years to ever top the 400,000 benchmark.
The year-over-year percentage increase in the latest year was +1.2%. Over the past 30 years, the annual percentage change has been +1.1%.
Provincially, the annual percentage changes in population were led by Alberta (+3.5%), followed by Saskatchewan (+1.9%) and Manitoba (+1.2%).
Quebec, Ontario and B.C., tied at +0.9% each, formed the next tier.
The Atlantic region declined ever so slightly (-0.2%).
In absolute terms, the country’s four most-populous provinces accounted for over 90% of the 404,000 increase.
Here’s where the story begins to take shape and become more compelling.
Alberta, with a current population of 4.0 million and an 11.4% share of the Canada total, accounted for 33.7% (+136,335) of the year-to-year increase.
Ontario’s population now stands at 13.5 million or 38.5% overall, but with a 31.2% share (+126,000) of the annual gain, it came second to Alberta.
Quebec saw a 2012-13 increase that was 17.6% (+71,275) of the 404,000 gain. At 8.2 million, the province has fallen below its historical one-quarter holding to 23.2%.
B.C.’s population count of 4.6 million (13.0% of the total) is after it took a 9.6% slice (+38,670) of the most recent annual increase.
The bottom line is that Alberta is coming on like gangbusters. Its population has gone from 3.0 million to 4.0 million — i.e., a one-third increase — in only 13 years, from 2000 to 2013.
In 2000, Alberta’s population as a percentage of B.C.’s was 75%. According to the latest measure, that percentage has risen to 87.5%. In other words, half the gap has been bridged.
If the same relative growth rates continue, Alberta will catch up to B.C. by 2026.
A couple of clear dates have had a dramatic effect on Alberta’s population.
These are readily apparent in the interprovincial migration statistics.
Alberta first experienced a surge in net interprovincial migration in the early 1970s, after OPEC flexed its muscles and introduced a thirteen-fold increase in the global price of oil.
The potential of the oilsands led many Canadians to relocate to Alberta from other parts of the country — far more than left the province for other destinations within Canada.
Ottawa’s unpopular National Energy Program (NEP), combined with delays in realizing the region’s full potential, — that is to say, further technological breakthroughs were required — caused a reversal in the numbers beginning in 1982-83.
Most years from then until 1995-1996 saw more Albertans leave the province than move into it from the rest of Canada.
Syncrude and a few other pioneers eventually established that oil could be extracted profitably, more firms moved into the Fort McMurray area (now Wood Buffalo) and the industry progressed beyond open-pit mining to include steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) projects as well.
In 1995-96, net interprovincial migration to Alberta turned positive again. With only one exception, 2009-10, the annual figure has been upbeat ever since.
It reached an all-time high for the province in the latest year, +53,000. The years 1997-98 (+43,000) and 2005-06 (+46,000) were also exceptionally strong.
Alberta’s 2012-13 interprovincial migration gain was driven mainly by net pick-ups from Ontario (+22,400), B.C. (+11,200), Nova Scotia (+4,900) and Quebec (+4,200).
Since 1995-96, 422,000 more Canadians from outside Alberta have relocated to that province than have moved from it to other parts of Canada.
Saskatchewan was the only other province last year to record a net interprovincial migration increase, although it was fairly small, +1,815.
At -21,323, Ontario suffered a 32-year low.
To be continued in Economy at a Glance Part 2.