What percentage of Canadians live in cities and towns?

Canada is a highly urbanized country like other industrialized nations. Over 80 percent of Canadians were living in urban areas in 2006. Canada’s economic and population growth is concentrated in the urban areas, and this is where most Canadians live. The 4 largest urban regions - Southern Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, and the Extended Golden Horseshoe comprise 51 percent of the country’s population. Close to 80 percent of all new immigrants settle in the big cities, and more than 50 percent of them choose Toronto.

The percentage of Canadians living in cities varies by province/territory. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 58 percent of residents live in urban areas while in Prince Edward Island, only 45 percent live in cities/urban areas. British Columbia and Ontario have the highest concentration of residents living in urban areas (85 percent), followed by Alberta (82 percent), Quebec (80 percent), Manitoba (71 percent), and Yukon (60 percent). The territory of Nunavut has the lowest percentage of residents living in urban areas (43 percent).

The largest urban areas in the country – Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto – make 34.4 percent or over one third of the population. Montreal is the 2nd most populous metropolitan area with a population of over 3.8 million residents. Factors that account for population growth include the development of major economic sectors such as finance, commerce, technology, pharmaceuticals, and tourism. Toronto is the largest Canadian city and the capital of Ontario. The metropolitan area has a population of over 5.5 million residents, and the city’s population grew by 4.3 percent during the period 2006 – 2011. The city of Vancouver has a population of 603,000 according to the 2011 census. About 74 percent of residents of Metro Vancouver live outside the city.

As of 2011, 69.3 percent or over two-thirds of Canadians lived in CMAs (census metropolitan areas), up from 67.2 percent in 2001. Between July, 2010 and July, 2011, population growth has been much higher in census metropolitan areas than in non-CMAs. The CMAs of Ottawa-Gatineau (19.3 percent), Saskatoon (25.7 percent), and Regina (18.4 percent) have the highest growth rates in Canada. Net international migration is the most important factor for population growth in Saskatchewan’s two CMAs. The census metropolitan areas of Vancouver (13 percent), Toronto (31.6 percent), and Montreal (17.6 percent) took in about two-thirds of all immigrants during the period 2010 – 2011.

Regarding rural populations, only Manitoba and Alberta have shown a consistent population growth in rural areas. Due to strong urban growth in the 60s, the rural population of Canada declined steadily. About 7.6 million Canadians lived in small towns and rural labour markets in 1966 compared to 6 million in 2006. The most populous provinces of Canada are least rural (Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta). Of all provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have experienced mostly rural population decline. Nunavut and Prince Edward Island are the only provinces in which the rural population is a majority.