Ontarians on the Move, 2021 Edition. #3 —Toronto vs. Not Toronto.

Mike Moffatt
4 min readFeb 13, 2021


Third in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market. Previous piece: #2 — One Million New Ontarians

TL;DR: For most of the 21st century, there were two trends in Ontario migration: Almost all immigrants and non-permanent residents settled in Toronto/York/Peel (TYP) and TYP saw an out-migration to other parts of the province. In 2015, one trend changed while the other escalated: the rest of the province saw a substantial increase in immigration and non-permanent residents while the outflow of population from TYP escalated.

In my series from 2020, I examined the exodus from Toronto and Peel and showed that, while both Census Divisions are growing, they’re losing significant populations to the rest of the province, largely young families looking for (more) affordable real-estate. Those CDs, along with York, are able to grow, however, due to being an attractive destination for non-permanent residents and international immigrants.

Given that I compared 2010–15 and 2015–20 in the previous entry in the 2021 series, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two periods when looking at Toronto/York/Peel (which can be thought of as 416/905 Toronto, or which I’ve shortened to TYP) and the rest of the province.

Boy, am I glad I made that decision. There have been some really big changes over the past decade.

Let’s start back in 2010. Back then, there were roughly 5 million people living in TYP, and 8 million living in the rest of the province.

So we can think of Ontario’s population being split, with 40% in TYP, and the remaining 60% in the rest of the province.

Here’s what the migration figures look like between 2010–15.

2010–15 Ontario Population Migration

In short, despite having less than 40% of Ontario’s total population, it experienced:

  • 52% of the province’s population growth
  • 64% of the province’s “natural” (births minus deaths) growth, due to a younger population.
  • 83% of net new immigrants
  • and 65% of the growth in non-permanent residents

It did, however, experience an outflow of over 150,000 people to the rest of the province. Some of those are likely from the pool of people who immigrated to the region who then moved to other communities; unfortunately, I don’t know of any data on the size of this.

2015–20 Ontario Population Migration

The trends over the past five years are substantially different, as shown below:

Now we have:

  • 41% of the province’s population growth, down from 52%. TYP and the rest of the province are now growing at roughly the same rate.
  • 73% of the province’s “natural” (births minus deaths) growth, up from 64%
  • 75% of net new immigrants, down from 83%
  • and 51% of the growth in non-permanent residents, down from 75%

Aside from natural population growth, the two areas are converging when it comes to non-intraprovincial population growth.

Oh… and TYP lost almost 270,000 residents to the rest of the province, as compared to 151,739 from 2010–15.

It’s also helpful to compare the two time periods, side-by-side for each of the two regions. Let’s start with TYP.

Toronto/York/Peel Population Growth

Residual Deviation is statistical talk for the shrug emoji

Excluding intraprovincial (within Ontario) migration, population growth was substantially higher in 2015–20 than 2010–15 (688,702 vs. 447,436), with the biggest contributing factor being an increase in net non-permanent residents. This difference of 241,266 between the two periods was cut in half by an increase in intraprovincial migration by 117,213.

Rest of Province Population Growth

In 2010–15, the rest of the province gained just under 124,000 people through sources other than intraprovincial migration from Toronto/York/Peel (TYP). This nearly tripled in 2015–20, in large part due to five-fold growth in net non-permanent residents. This is an absolutely massive jump in a short period of time; future pieces will examine the causes, and how much of a role increasing international student enrollments played.

Going from a 275,000 person population increase to a 600,000 plus one in five years is going to play havoc with real estate markets, particularly if policymakers were not anticipating it (and I don’t believe they were). Doubly so when this growth wasn’t evenly spread but was experienced in markets such as London and Woodstock, which had been slower-growing communities.

In short, population growth and migration dynamics have changed substantially in the last five years, and this is certainly causing some of the chaos we were seeing in the housing market, even before COVID hit.

Next piece: #4 — It’s Mostly Young Families, not Retirees, leaving Toronto



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.