Canada’s population growth at highest level in more than 30 years

Edana Robitaille
Updated: Aug, 21, 2023
  • Published: July 3, 2022

As of April 1, 2022, Canada’s population was estimated to be nearly 39 million people. This is a population increase of nearly 128,000 people over three months from January 1.

This marks the highest rate of growth in the first quarter of a year since 1990 and is a continuation of the high population growth rates seen before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020.

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Ontario and New Brunswick reach new milestones

This growth is most apparent in two Canadian provinces. Between January-March 2022 Ontario’s population surpassed 15 million people. Ontario is already Canada’s most populous province and home to Canada’s largest city.

The province of New Brunswick is also experiencing an unprecedented growth in population as data shows the population now exceeds 800,000. During 2021-2022 fiscal year, 6,581 immigrants arrived in the province, and over 10,000 people moved to New Brunswick from Ontario.

Nunavut, a territory in Canada’s north, also made record breaking gains by exceeding 40,000 people.

Other provinces continued to experience steady growth. Of note, Nova Scotia saw a 0.4% increase and Prince Edward Island 0.8%.

Growth is due to immigration

These population gains are widely credited to immigration. In the first quarter of 2022, Canada welcomed 113,700 new immigrants, the largest number in any first quarter since quarterly data became available in 1946.

These numbers mark an increase of 62% over the first quarter of 2021 and a 64% increase from the same period in 2020.

Immigration Levels Plan

Canada recognizes that it needs a robust immigration strategy to support the demands of the labour market. This is outlined in the 2022-2004 Immigration Levels Plan that shows Canada’s immigration targets for permanent residents in the coming years.

Canada exceeded its 2021 immigration target by welcoming over 405,000 new permanent residents. In the last three months of 2021 alone, over 138,000 people obtained permanent resident status, which was an all-time quarterly high.

In 2022, Canada is on track to meet its target of 431,645 new permanent residents and aims to welcome more than 451,000 a year by 2024.

More temporary work permit holders staying in Canada

The Immigration Levels Plan targets are only for permanent residents. Each year Canada also issues an unlimited number of work permits to several thousand temporary workers. In the first quarter of 2022, over 28,000 temporary workers arrived in Canada.

A labour market study released earlier this week suggests that many new permanent residents arrive in Canada on a temporary work permit and use the experience they gain to eventually obtain permanent residence. Over the past decade, the number of work permit holders in Canada jumped from 111,000 to 770,000.

Looking ahead

Canada needs to consistently increase immigration levels due to its aging population and low birth rate. It is expected that by 2030, nine million workers from the baby boomer generation will reach the retirement age of 65, leaving large gaps in the workforce that can’t be filled by natural born Canadians.

To reduce the impact of a labour shortage, Canada offers over 100 economic immigration pathways for skilled workers. The most popular programs are through the Express Entry system, the Provincial Nominee Program and Quebec Immigration Program. In the last three months of 2021 alone, 138,182 people became permanent residents of Canada, meaning immigration accounted for 92.5% of Canada’s population growth.

Express Entry is the leading federal pathway to permanent residence. Express Entry draws have been on hold in recent months however Canada’s immigration minister, Sean Fraser, has said that Express Entry draws are tentatively set to return to normal on July 6.

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