The growth of the 905 is actually happening in the 519 and 705. This has consequences.

There are some big changes happening in Ontario, that are largely flying under the radar, which are going to have large political and economic consequences.

TL;DR version: We often hear about the “growing” suburbs of the 905, and how they’re gaining in both numbers and political clout. This doesn’t tell the whole story, as there’s an exodus of young families out of the 905, moving to places like Woodstock and Stratford, in search of more affordable real-estate.

Statistics Canada has a number of fantastic publicly available data sets on migration patterns within Canada. The latest release was from the end of March 2019 and covers the 2017/2018 period. There’s a lot in them to digest, some of which I covered in Examining the Exodus out of Toronto and The Toronto Exodus and Regional Economic Development.

Here’s what the data tells us for Ontario Census Divisions.

Population Growth of Ontario Census Divisions

Here’s the 2017/18 population growth for Ontario Census Divisions, broken down into four components:

Here’s the data for 2017/2018:

The fastest-growing census division isn’t in the 905, it’s 416 Toronto. Other growing communities include 613 Ottawa, 519 Waterloo and Middlesex and 705 Simcoe, along with a number of 905 communities.

The most telling figure is the within Canada migration. Toronto, York and Peel are shedding large numbers of Canadians to other parts of the country. Where are they moving to? The biggest gainers are Simcoe (705) and Ottawa (613). A couple of 905 communities show up on the list: Durham and Niagara (and typically when we think “905” we’re not thinking Niagara, which isn’t particularly proximate to Toronto). Waterloo and Middlesex show up again.

Toronto, York and Peel are experiencing high levels of “natural” population growth, thanks to their, on average, younger populations (so fewer deaths and more births).

A lot of the net population growth in the 416 and 905 are from non-permanent residents. Time will tell on what proportion end up staying in Canada permanently.

Within Ontario Migration

The data above suggests that people are moving out of Toronto, Peel and York to places like Simcoe and Middlesex. But who are they?

A common theory is that they’re retirees “cashing out” of their expensive real estate and moving somewhere cheaper. We do see some of this; Niagara’s population is increasing thanks to a growing number of movers over the age of 60. But the primary driver is young families in search of less expensive real estate:

The numbers for Toronto are particularly eye-opening. It isn’t seniors moving out of the city, it’s kids under the age of 15 and adults between the ages of 30 and 44. Those are your young families right there.

Similarly, Simcoe (Barrie), Oxford (Woodstock), Middlesex (London), are seeing big growth from young families, along with Durham and Halton. Niagara is the one exception, where within-Ontario migration growth is largely driven by older age groups.

This hasn’t always been the case — the numbers were significantly different five years ago.

In just five years York has gone from adding population from the rest of the province to losing 10,000 each year. That’s a massive change in just 5 years.

Let’s compare the 0–14 category between the two years:

Middlesex, Waterloo, Haldimand-Norfolk (Simcoe, ON, not to be confused with Simcoe County, ON) and Essex (Windsor) are seeing an influx of kids under the age of 15; this wasn’t happening 5 years ago.

Similarly, the growth rate of young kids moving to Halton, Peel, York and Toronto has slowed significantly. (Or in the case of Peel and Toronto, the rate of decline has increased).

It’s clear to a whole lot of people what’s going on:

A lot of families weren’t as lucky as Nick; they’re living in Woodstock or Stratford or London and commuting to Toronto nearly every day. This isn’t exactly great for their well-being or the environment.

If this trend continues, it will have massive political consequences. The lack of housing and the long commutes is going to lead to a very cranky voting public. We need to do something about it, while there’s still time.

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.