Mike Moffatt

Jan 13

4 min read

Ontarians on the Move, 2022 Edition. #1 -How Has the Pandemic Changed Population Dynamics in Ontario?

First in (what I hope) will be a series on population growth, migration, and what’s going on with Ontario’s housing market.

TL;DR: Ontario’s population dynamics have changed during the pandemic, mostly through a loss in international students. Ontario has also been losing residents to other provinces in a way it has not in the past, though the magnitudes are relatively small.

Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released their population estimates for 2021. I wait in anticipation of this data every year.; mostly because I’m a giant dork, but partly because of how detailed it is. It shows, at a community level, the hows and whys of population change between any two Canada Days.

I thought it would be interesting to see how Ontario’s population dynamics changed during the pandemic, as we now have the first full-year of pandemic data (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). I’ll keep the commentary relatively light and let the numbers do the talking.

I decided to split Ontario’s census divisions into three groups, aligning with Ontario’s Growth Plan.

Here’s a map of the three areas, from Hemson Consulting Limited:

Source: Hemson.

The three groups are as follows:

GTAH: Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Peel, Toronto, and York.

Outer Ring: Brant, Dufferin, Haldimand-Norfolk, Kawartha Lakes, Niagara, Northumberland, Peterborough, Simcoe, Waterloo, Wellington. (This deviates slightly from the map above. It does include the ‘separated cities’, as shown in the map — so Barrie is included in Simcoe, etc.)

All Else Ontario: Everywhere else.

Here’s the data on components of population change.


Remember how, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were supposed to have a baby boom? Didn’t happen. In fact, births fell substantially, particularly in the GTAH.

How to read chart: The figures for ‘2021’ represent population change from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.


Continued their upward trend. Note that while births in the GTAH are about double what they are in ‘All Else Ontario’, deaths are only somewhat higher.

Net Interprovincial Migration

This measures the number of people moving to Ontario from the rest of Canada, minus the number of people leaving Ontario. In the pre-COVID recent past, Ontario has gained residents from other provinces. That has completely reversed, with Ontario now losing them, though the size of the effect is relatively modest. In 2018–19, Ontario gained, on net, 6,600 residents from the rest of Canada. In 2020–21, it lost 17,000.

Net Immigration

This figure takes into account both immigration to Canada and emigration from Canada. Not surprisingly, we saw a big dip in immigration in 2020–21, particularly in the GTAH.

Net Non-Permanent Residents

These are mostly international students and workers on post-graduation work permits. The term ‘non-permanent resident’ is a misnomer, as high numbers of those students/graduates end up applying, and obtaining permanent residency. I like to think of this category more as ‘pre-immigrants in Canada’.

Not surprisingly, this category went into free-fall, as the pandemic often shut down in-person higher education, and disrupted the international student market.

Net Intraprovincial Migration

This is the number of people who move, on net, from one part of the province to another. The GTAH lost nearly 55,000 people, on net, to the rest of the province (contrast this to the 8,000 it lost to other parts of Canada). Though it is hard to quantify how much the pandemic had to do with this, as it is a continuation of pre-pandemic trends.

Overall Population Growth

I thought it would be helpful to include data on overall population growth. Overall, Ontario’s population still grew in 2020–21, though growth slowed substantially, particularly in the GTAH.

That’s what an initial scan of the data shows me. Would love to get your thoughts!