Guelph has leapfrogged over Cambridge to become the second biggest city in the Waterloo-Wellington area, with its population jumping by 8.3 per cent over five years, compared with Cambridge’s 2.5 per cent growth.
First results from Canada’s 2016 census, released Wednesday, put the City of Guelph’s population at 131,794 in 2016, up from 121,688 when the previous national census was done in 2011.
In 2011, Guelph was smaller than Cambridge, which had 126,748 people — over 5,000 more than Guelph. But Cambridge’s modest growth of 2.5 per cent over the next five years means its population was 129,920 in 2016 — almost 2,000 under Guelph’s.
Meanwhile, Kitchener and Waterloo were neck and neck in the population growth race. Kitchener grew by 6.4 per cent over five years to 233,222 in 2016, while Waterloo grew by 6.3 per cent and so had 104,986 people by 2016.
Guelph is often compared with Kingston and Barrie, two similarly-sized municipalities that are politically separate — they are termed “single tier” municipalities. Guelph grew faster than either of them from 2011 to 2016. Kingston grew by just 0.4 per cent to 123,798 people, while Barrie grew by 3.9 per cent to 141,434 people in 2016.
The first glimpse of the 2016 census provided Wednesday by Statistics Canada dealt with population size and growth. It tallies people who reported living in Canada last May and shows the patterns of population growth across the country.
It will be followed up by releases of five more batches of data between May 3 and Nov. 29, with the May 3 stats to deal with age, sex and type of dwelling.
The City of Guelph is part of one of Canada’s 35 so-called “census metropolitan areas,” and it’s one of only seven CMAs whose population growth accelerated from 2011-16 compared with the previous five-year census period. The increase in the rate of population growth between the two census periods was two or more percentage points in Guelph, Windsor and St. Catharines-Niagara CMAs, as well as in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Victoria, Statistics Canada said in a lengthy statement about the highlights of the census date released Wednesday.
Mayor Cam Guthrie expressed delight with the census numbers for Guelph.
“I was surprised and not surprised at the same time,” he said with a chuckle during a short phone interview Thursday afternoon.
“I just had the feeling for quite a while now that we are really growing fast, and to have census numbers justifying what I was feeling in my gut is interesting,” he said.
“It really does prove that we are a great city to come and live in,” Guthrie said.
Canada’s population went up by five per cent between 2011 and 2016, growing to 35,151,728 from 33,476,688. This was lower than the country’s 5.9 per cent growth rate from 2006 to 2011.
Ontario’s growth rate from 2011 to 2016 was slower than the national rate. Canada’s biggest province grew by 4.6 per cent over the five years, to 13,448,494 from 12,851,821.
The Guelph CMA also includes Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa townships. The population of Puslinch, which has a land area of about 215 square kilometres, grew by 4.4 per cent to 7,336 people in 2016 from 7,029 in 2011. Guelph-Eramosa Township, which has a land area of about 292 square kilometres, grew by 3.8 per cent to 12,854 people from 12,380.
Guelph’s land area is about 87 square kilometres and it has 55,927 private dwellings, according to the new census data.
“About two-thirds of Canada’s population growth from 2011 to 2016 was the result of migratory increase (the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants),” Stats Can says. “Natural increase (the difference between the number of births and deaths) accounted for the remaining one-third.
“In the coming years,” it adds, “population growth in Canada is projected to be increasingly linked to migratory increase rather than natural increase, mainly because of low fertility and an aging population.”
Even though Canada’s growth rate was slower from 2011 to 2016 than in the preceding five years, Canada still led the G7 in growth rate from 2011-16, with its growth rising on average by one per cent a year. Canada’s growth rate has also led the G7 in the previous two census periods.
“As in Canada, migratory increase is the key driver of population growth in other G7 countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy,” Stats Can says. “In addition, three G7 countries — Germany, Italy and Japan — have recorded more deaths than births in recent years, meaning that the population growth in these countries depended entirely on migratory increase.
“Canada’s average annual population growth rate of 1.0 per cent from 2011 to 2016 was the eighth highest among G20 countries, behind Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia and India.”
Since the mid-1960s, the fertility rate of women has gradually decreased in Canada, it says. “With Canadian families having fewer children, migratory increase became the key driver of population growth at the end of the 1990s.”
Canada’s overall population growth from 2011 to 2016 masks considerable differences among the provinces and territories, Stats Can says.
For the first time since joining Confederation, all three Prairie provinces recorded Canada’s highest rates of provincial population growth from 2011 to 2016. Population growth accelerated in Alberta and Manitoba, the only two provinces to post higher growth rates from 2011 to 2016 than they did from 2006-11. Alberta had the fastest growth rate among the provinces in the latest census — 11.6 per cent, up from a growth rate of 10.8 per cent from 2006-11.
Manitoba’s population increased 5.8 per cent from 2011 to 2016, thus posting a higher growth rate than the national average for the first time in 80 years. Most of the province’s gain was due to stronger international migration, Stats Can says.
Almost one-third — 31.6 per cent — of Canadians lived in the West in 2016, the largest share of Canada’s population on record.