Greater Toronto experienced a massive population boom, but that may be peaking soon. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) data shows Toronto CMA’s population was booming in 2022. Drilling down into the numbers reveals the growth was just immigration. The artificial growth trend obfuscates the record outflow of residents from the region. The headline data looks great, but people might be seeing more opportunity elsewhere.
Greater Toronto’s Population Added Over 138,000 People In 2022
Much like the rest of Canada, Greater Toronto’s population has been surging in growth. The latest estimate puts Toronto CMA at 6.69 million people in 2022, up 2.1% (+138,240) from last year. About half (49.5%) of that growth was in the City of Toronto, which would have been an impressive number itself.
Immigration Is The Primary Driver of Toronto’s Population
Immigration is the primary driver of this trend, as Canada catches up on a backlog. Greater Toronto welcomed 159,679 immigrants in 2022, up 103% (+80,830) from the year before. Depending on how you look at it, two things stand out—the growth rate and the number of people.
Greater Toronto Has Seen A Record Immigrant Inflow
The annual number of immigrants that arrived in Canada and settled in the Greater Toronto region.
Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.
Doubling the volume of immigrants in the region seems like an odd trend, and it was. As mentioned earlier, a backlog left the prior year’s number of immigrants at a multi-year low. The growth is a bit of a base effect, though it’s still a huge number.
The second thing you might have noticed—there were more immigrants than total growth. No, it’s not due to deaths—Toronto residents are picking up and moving at a record pace.
Over 78,000 Greater Toronto Residents Fled To Another Part of Ontario
Net intraprovincial migration is the balance of people that left Toronto CMA for another part of Ontario. The net outflow was 78,100 people in 2022, following a 73,500 person outflow the year before. An outflow means more people left for other parts of Ontario than arrived. In this case, by the tens of thousands—the most in at least a generation.
Greater Toronto Residents Are Leaving In Record Volumes
The net flow of Greater Toronto residents to other parts of Ontario (intraprovincial migration), and other parts of Canada interprovincial migration). Negative numbers mean more people left than arrived in Toronto CMA.
Source: Statistics Canada; Better Dwelling.
Toronto Is No Longer A Place Where Other Canadians Seek Opportunity
Remember when Toronto was a hub for people from other provinces across Canada? Those days are long gone as net interprovincial migration turned deeply negative. INTER is the net flow of people between Toronto CMA and other provinces. The net was an outflow of 21,400 people in 2022, more than double the previous year. The region had a positive flow as recently as 2019, only turning negative as the low rate bubble took off.
Over 1 In 4 Canadians That Left Canada Were Toronto Residents
Emigration, the act of permanently leaving Canada, takes serious commitment. However, thousands of people from Greater Toronto were up to the task. Toronto CMA saw 12,625 people emigrate to another country, up 38.1% from the previous year. Greater Toronto represented roughly 1 in 4 people leaving Canada.
Greater Toronto’s emigrants hit the highest level since 2017. Though it’s worth remembering other countries also have application backlogs. Don’t be too surprised if emigration volumes continue to rise over the next few years.
What does this all mean? Like we mention when discussing provincial migration, this is mostly a sentiment indicator. Toronto’s population is growing and that means a boost to the economy, at least at the aggregate level. However, aggregate boosts can hide a drop in quality of life by just adding more economic units. Sorry, we mean human capital stock, the accepted political term.
Residents leaving in large numbers is a big concern that usually slips under the radar. Immigrants tend to land in hubs based on lagging data showing opportunity. Residents can spot an erosion in opportunity or decline in quality of life as it occurs. As they start seeing a better opportunity elsewhere, so do their peers. It’s only a matter of time before immigrants begin to see it elsewhere too.