Canada’s population grew 2.7% in 2022, the fastest expansion among advanced economies and on par with many African nations.
The country added a record 1,050,110 people over a one-year period to Jan. 1, bringing the total population to 39,566,248, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday in Ottawa. International migration accounted for 95.9% of the growth — a testament to Canada’s decision to counter the economic drag of an aging populace by throwing its doors open to newcomers.
It marks the first time the northern nation grew by more than a million people in a year, while its industrial peers try different ways to address demographic challenges, including raising the retirement age. If this population growth rate is sustained, the statistics agency said Canada would double in size in about 26 years.
The record-setting expansion is the result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to add about half a million new permanent residents annually. The government has consistently raised its immigration target to grow the workforce and boost economic output, but that also threatens to worsen shortages of housing and health care workers.
Still, recent polling by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News shows 52% of respondents say Trudeau’s plan will have a positive impact on Canada’s economy. That compares with 38% who see the increase as a negative.
Doug Ford, premier of Canada’s most populous province, hailed the stream of new arrivals that brought Ontario’s population to 15.4 million. But he cautioned there is work to be done to accommodate them.
“Stats Canada comes out and they said last year 450,000 people landed here in Ontario, calling this home,” Ford told reporters in the Toronto suburb of Oakville after the data was released. “That’s why we need the schools, hospitals and bridges, the infrastructure — and we especially need homes.”
While there is broad public support for the open-door policy, rapid population growth in urban centers has sent rents soaring and forced many people to leave major cities to search for affordable housing elsewhere.
Increasing immigration not only adds to to the labor supply and fills some shortages, it also boosts demand and consumption during a period of low growth because newcomers need basic necessities from housing and food to banking and mobile phones.
Rapid population growth has already given a boost to telecommunications companies. The big three domestic players — Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp — reported net gains of more than 400,000 new mobile subscribers combined in the fourth quarter alone.
The increase in demand may be part of the reason why Canada’s economy is proving more resilient than expected, with jobs continuing to be added and consumer spending still holding up in the face of the highest interest rates in 15 years. Home prices are also expected to rebound quickly next year as key cities keep seeing a large influx of new population.
(With assistance from Erik Hertzberg and Danielle Bochove.)