Keeping Some Perspective: Ontario Growth and the Census

by Rural Ontario Institute 27. February 2012 08:52

To hear some of the media commentary on the population change emerging from Census numbers from 2011 you’d be excused for thinking no-one was living in Ontario anymore because the west is booming and that all rural and small towns are in decline.   Let’s keep some perspective. 

It is important to look at the absolute numbers as well as trends in the growth rate.  Ontario’s growth rate of 5.7 % on a population base of approximately 12 million saw an addition of around 700,000 people over 5 years.  Alberta with a growth rate of 10.6% on a population base of 3 million saw an addition of some 360,000 people over that time.  Thus Ontario’s % share of the population in Canada continued to grow.   Make no mistake, Ontario still has congestion issues, affordable housing and growth management challenges to deal with.  Necessary debates about the merits of provincial Growth Plan allocations and Greenbelt polices will persist with rural and small towns in near-metro regions in Ontario growing even while more remote regions are declining.    Sustainably managing our resources is something we will need to continue to concern ourselves with – managing pressures to convert farmland, wisely using aggregate resources, conserving natural heritage and biodiversity, investing in alternative transportation and sustainable water systems should continue to occupy our attention even as we balance budgets and work to keep our economy competitive.

For a more nuanced understanding of rural and small town trends across the country click here to see a recent presentation from Ray Bollman formerly with Statistics Canada and long time analyst of rural data.

Also, the data for Ontario “small population centres” as opposed to strictly rural areas are available here:


Population share of Canada's regions, 1951 to 2011

Sources: Statistics Canada, censuses of population, 1951 to 2011.


Norman Ragetlie, Director, Policy & Stakeholder Engagement