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Canada Census Shows People Moving WestWednesday, February 08, 2012 > 13:10:55
The growing political influence of the West has already been proven by the re-election of Calgary-based Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and in the new seat distribution of the House of Commons. 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."
The same economic thrust is at work within Canada's regions, with big cities gaining relentlessly over small towns and rural areas, analysts say. Large metropolitan areas ballooned by 7.4% between 2006 and 2011, far above the national average of 5.9%. "Seven in 10 Canadians live in these large metropolitan areas, and that's increasing in each census," said Statistics Canada's Jane Badets, director general of social and demographic statistics. The areas around the three largest cities — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — now claim 35% of the country's total population.
Smaller towns only grew by 4.2% over the census period. And rural areas stalled, showing only a 1.7% expansion. Young job-seekers in small towns see their local mill closing down and job opportunities drying up, so they move to the nearest city. That's why Halifax grew at a healthy 4.7% clip over five years, while Nova Scotia's population is stagnant, said McIver. "Nearly every county is in decline except Halifax," he said.
Federal and provincial regional development programs have done very little to reverse the tug of the city, he added. "You can't create jobs where they're not economically viable. I think it's unwise to put the focus on preventing people from making the economic advance that they would if they moved."
Similarly, the downtown cores of Vancouver and Toronto are expanding and flourishing, while the older suburbs are becoming havens for poverty, said Glenn Miller, vice-president of education and research at the Canadian Urban Institute. "The concern is that the attractive parts are going to continue to get more attractive, which puts pressure on them. And it becomes harder to attract investment to the less attractive parts. And this has social implications," Miller said.
But too much population growth has put intense pressure on real estate and social programs in Vancouver and Victoria, and caused congestion in Toronto, he added. "What you hope for is a balance."
See 2011 Census: Population and Dwelling Counts at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/120208/dq120208a-eng.htm