Ontarians on the Move, 2021 Edition #15 — New Ministry of Finance Population Projections

Mike Moffatt
3 min readJun 30, 2021

Fifteenth in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market. Previous piece: Ontarians on the Move, 2021 Edition #14 — Over the Next 30 Years, the City of Toronto Should Be Planning to Add 2 Million Residents, not 700,000.

TL;DR version: Ontario’s newly released population projections show Ontario’s population growing up to as much as 22.3 million by Canada Day, 2046. However, any examination of the population projections from February 2018 illustrates how quickly projections can become dated.

Last week Ontario’s Ministry of Finance released their population projections for the next 25 years. This year they also added the raw data to Ontario’s data catalogue. This is extremely helpful — thanks Ontario Ministry of Finance!

There’s a lot to dig into here. A few highlights:

First, the projections have Ontario’s population growing to between 17.6 and 22.3 million by July 1, 2046, with a reference scenario of 19.8 million:

Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance.

Digging into the files at Open Data, we see that this growth is primarily going to be driven by immigration.

Source: Ontario Data Catalogue.

I’m surprised by the relatively modest numbers for the “net change in non-permanent residents” category. The Ontario government appears to be predicting that the growth in international students and the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program will dramatically slow down. That could happen, but it’s certainly not a slam-dunk, so (in my view) there should be more deviation between estimates between the low, reference, and high scenarios for that category.

Not surprisingly, the Ontario government is predicting that the bulk of this population growth will occur near Toronto:

Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance. Note that this is for the reference scenario.

Interestingly, however, they are not suggesting that the growth will necessarily occur in the City of Toronto itself:

Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance. Note that these numbers are for the reference scenario.

When I saw this map, my first reaction was “Wait, wasn’t the Ontario government just recently predicting that Oxford Census Division was going to experience population decline? Now it’s growing by over 35%?!?”

It turns out that, for once, my memory isn’t completely failing me. Only partially. Using the Wayback Machine, it’s possible to get these projections going back to October 2009, using this link. I randomly chose February 3, 2018 as the date to examine. Those projections did have Oxford growing by 0–15% through 2041 (rather than over 35%):

Source: Wayback Machine.

However, it did forecast that the division would go into population decline by 2041:

Source: Wayback Machine.

Keeping in mind that Feb 3, 2018 was only about 40 months ago, here’s a comparison of the population forecast for Oxford then, vs. what it is in last week’s release:

I’d say that’s a bit of a change. That’s not intended as a slight, but rather an illustration of how fast population projections can become out of date, particularly when there’s a change to immigration targets or rules around international student permits.

Lots more to dig into. Let me know if you see anything interesting!



Mike Moffatt

Senior Director, Smart Prosperity. Assistant Prof, Ivey Business School. Exhausted but happy Dad of 2 wonderful kids with autism. I used to do other stuff.