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Canada’s “rural” population flat over 25 years

Canada’s rural population, namely people who live outside the commuting zone of larger urban centres, has remained fairly stable at about six million since 1981, according to Statistics Canada.

However, stronger growth among the population of larger urban centres has meant that these six million people represent a smaller share of Canada’s total population, the federal statistical agency said in a release Tuesday. In 2006, their share had declined to about 19 per cent of Canada’s population, compared with 20 per cent in 2001.

Between 2001 and 2006, the population in rural and small town areas grew by one per cent. This was much slower than the growth of 6.4 per cent in larger urban centres.

Within these rural and small town areas, population growth was highest during this five-year period in areas strongly linked to urban centres (up 4.7 per cent). In areas weakly linked to urban centres, the population declined 1.4 per cent.

Each province showed a similar pattern. In zones that were less linked to urban centres, the population declined more, or growth was slower.

However, in both Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, the overall rural and small town population has been declining since 1986.

Although the 1.4 million rural and small town inhabitants in Ontario represented a relatively small share of Ontario’s total population, they constituted 24 per cent of Canada’s total rural and small town population in 2006. Quebec’s share of the total rural and small town population was slightly higher at 25 per cent.

Note: This study uses three different definitions of rural Canada to profile the structure of Canada’s rural population, and updates the population data to 2006. The term rural and small town refers to those areas outside of urban centres of 10,000 or more population and where less than 50 per cent of the labour force commutes to an urban centre for work.

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