January 20, 2021

Stats 101: A slowing rate of change is not a real loss

If you saw this headline in the Daily Hive, what would you conclude?

Might you think that Canada’s big cities have seen a drop in their populations?  Easy conclusion, but wrong. 

That is not what this Stats Canada report says, as should be evident in the headline:

Not only is population increasing in the big CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas), though not as fast as a year earlier, but they’re still growing faster than small urban centres – the opposite of what the article in the Hive implies in sentences like this.

Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver continued to see more people moving out to other regions of their province rather than moving in.

During this one-year period, Toronto saw 50,375 people leave, while Montreal saw 24,880 people leave — a record loss for both cities.

There’s now a meme that cities like Vancouver are being deserted by Covid-fearing residents for small towns.  And there’s a modest indication of something like that happening: more people moving out to surrounding CMAs of the big three cities than those moving in from nearby.  But those are still relatively low numbers, more than offset by the international immigration that constitutes 90 percent of population growth in big CMAs.

The important story is actually the increase in ongoing urban sprawl accentuated by the shift to those smaller regions, which will also likely see marked increased in traffic congestion since their urban form is more car dependent.  Meanwhile, the big CMAs may seem some relief in the upward pressure on housing costs and traffic growth.  But that doesn’t fit the meme.

 

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