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Small-town life looking good to boomers

Statistics Canada report; Montreal Island is bleeding population to outlying regions, new studies show


David Johnston, The Gazette

Published: 2 hours ago


The Montreal metropolitan region, once a magnet for people from the rest of Quebec, is now losing more people to the outlying regions than it is gaining, Statistics Canada reported yesterday.


Leading the way in this U-turn in the province's demographic history is the restless pitter-patter of retiring baby boomers in the Montreal region. Many are cashing out of the local real


estate market and buying cheaper properties in outlying towns, or simply moving back to their home towns in the regions.


Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are seeing some of the same boomer-fuelled trends.


In Quebec, the chief beneficiaries have been Joliette and St. Jean sur Richelieu, both situated a short hop outside the Montreal metropolitan region. The two towns ranked among the 10 fastest-growing medium-sized towns in Canada from 2001 to 2006, according to a Statistics Canada analysis of 2006 census data made public yesterday.


"All of our own studies confirm what Statistics Canada is saying," Daniel Desroches, town manager of St. Jean, said in an interview yesterday.


Overall, the metropolitan region registered a net loss of


29,195 people to other regions of Quebec from 2001 to 2006. This loss represents the birth of a new trend.


The Montreal region had registered an overall gain in intra-provincial migration from 1996 to 2001, although relatively minor, as well as major gains in the decades before that.


Despite the losses from 2001 to 2006, immigration, or international migration, has more than compensated for the region's internal population losses to the rest of Quebec and Canada.


"What we can say is that most of those people leaving for the rest of Quebec are moving to smaller towns - not larger cities like Quebec City and Sherbrooke that have their own census metropolitan areas," said Patrice Dion, an analyst in the demography division of StatsCan.


Some towns that had relatively minor population gains from 2001 to 2006 have since begun to show signs of a vigorous new construction boom, real estate experts say.


Lachute, for example, 80 kilometres northwest of Montreal, has awarded $19 million in new housing construction permits this year, double last year's total at this time, which was double the comparable total for the first six months of 2006.


The StatsCan study made public yesterday also confirmed previous studies showing a slowdown in the so-called exodus of Quebecers to other provinces.


The inter-provincial losses from 2001-06 were the lowest recorded in any five-year census period since 1971-76, Dion said. From 2001 to 2006, Quebec lost only 8,000 anglophones to other provinces - fewer than 2,000 a year, compared with up to 50,000 a year in the late 1970s.


But as a StatCan study made public last December showed, new influxes of anglophones into Quebec from other countries between 2001 and 2006 slightly outnumbered the 8,000 losses, meaning English Quebec is growing today for the first time since the early 1970s.


StatsCan also examined population movement within the Montreal metropolitan region. It looked at all the household moves from one municipality in the region to another and found clear winners and losers.


The city of Montreal was a heavy loser, mainly to off-island suburbs. But Boisbriand, St. Joseph du Lac and Pointe Calumet, all off-island suburbs, were also big losers.


The only town on Montreal Island with a net gain of population from other parts of the region was Ste. Anne de Bellevue.


Beaconsfield and Dollard des Ormeaux suffered mild losses, as did Westmount and Montreal East. Off-island suburbs Longueuil, Oka and Ste. Anne des Plaines also suffered slight net losses.


The one bright spot for the region was its net gain of 12,795 people in the 15-to-29 age group. These gains came from both the rest of Quebec and the rest of Canada.


They reflect continuing poor job prospects in some outlying Quebec regions for young people as well as strong interest nationally in Montreal as a city for post-secondary studies, Dion said.




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Not-So-Small Towns


Small and medium-sized urban centres experienced significant population growth from 2001 to 2006, figures from the 2006 census show. Here are the urban centres that experienced the biggest gains from population shifts within Canada:


City Province


1. Okotoks Alta.


2. Parksville B.C.


3. Grande Prairie Alta.


4. Wood Buffalo Alta.


5. Chilliwack B.C.


6. Vernon B.C.


7. Joliette Que.


8. Red Deer Alta.


9. St. Jean sur Richelieu Que.


10. Courtenay B.C.


Other centres in Quebec in the Top 50


23. Drummondville


30. Granby


32. St. Georges (Beauce)


37. Sorel-Tracy


38. Victoriaville


44. Cowansville


49. Rivière du Loup


50. St. Hyacinthe


source: statistics Canada

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