Canada’s two largest metro areas have recorded their largest-ever outflow of residents according to new data from Statistics Canada, as a growing number of residents headed for the suburbs or nearby smaller cities.
The Toronto metropolitan area saw a net loss of 50,375 residents to other parts of Ontario between July 2019 and July 2020, while the Montreal area lost a net 24,880 people to other parts of Quebec. In Vancouver, 12,189 more residents moved out to other parts of B.C. than moved in, among the highest numbers ever recorded.
The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded about mid-way through this period.
Thanks to immigration, the largest metro areas still recorded overall population growth during this period, but they grew far less quickly than many smaller nearby places.
Vancouver’s 1.1-per-cent population growth was outdone by suburban New Westminster (2.8 per cent), while Montreal’s 0.7 per cent growth paled in comparison to nearby Mirabel, growing 3.6 per cent.
It’s not surprising that the pandemic accelerated the exodus from big cities, but the trend began well before that, said Frank Clayton, an urban and real estate economist at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development in Toronto.
“There’s been an outflow of Toronto for years as people move out for something bigger,” he told HuffPost Canada.
With the pandemic, “people accelerated the decision a bit,” he added.
Millennials are settling down and having children, and they are following the Baby Boomers in an exodus for more affordable and larger houses in suburbia, Clayton said.
“Millennials’ behaviour is not exactly but pretty much like Boomers, except they’re doing it 10 years later (in life),” Clayton said.