On April 15, 1997 the first results from the 1996 Census - population and
dwelling counts - were released by Statistics Canada. Information on other
characteristics of the B.C. population such as age, ethnicity, education,
income, etc. will be released over the next two years.
British Columbia had the fastest growing population of any province or
territory in Canada between 1991 and 1996. On May 14, 1996, the population of
B.C. was counted at 3,724,500 people, an increase of 13.5% from the population
measured by the 1991 Census and more than double the 5.7% increase in the
Canadian population over the five year period. The next two fastest growing
provinces were Ontario (6.6%) and Alberta (5.9%); the Northwest Territories
(11.7%) and Yukon (10.7%) also experienced strong growth between 1991 and 1996.
Within the province the strongest growth generally occurred in the Lower
Mainland (including the Sunshine Coast and Squamish/Whistler areas) (15%), the
east coast of Vancouver Island (excluding the Capital area) (19%) and the
Okanagan Valley (18%). With the exception of Stikine, all regional districts
(census divisions) in the province experienced growth between 1991 and 1996, led
by Squamish-Lillooet (26%) and Central Okanagan (22%). The population decline in
the Stikine was due largely to the 1992 closure of the mine at Cassiar and the
subsequent out-migration from the region.
Among large municipalities (those with populations of more than 100,000), the
strongest growth in the 1991-1996 period was posted in Surrey (24%), followed by
Abbotsford and Coquitlam (both 21%). Of Canadian municipalities of this size,
only Richmond Hill, Ontario had stronger growth than these three B.C.
municipalities. Among smaller municipalities (those with populations of more
than 5,000), Whistler had the strongest growth (61%) in the country between
1991 and 1996, although the smaller neighbouring community of Pemberton had
even stronger growth (70%). In the >5,000 size category,three
municipalities in the central part of Vancouver Island ranked next in terms of
population growth: Courtenay (48%), Ladysmith (32%) and Qualicum Beach (31%).
Top Municipalities (> 5,000 people) in terms of growth from 1991 to 1996
|Municipality ||1996 Population || % Change |
|Whistler ||7,172 ||60.8 |
|Courtenay ||17,335 ||48.2 |
|Ladysmith ||6,456 ||32.4 |
|Qualicum Beach ||6,728 ||31.0 |
|Parksville ||9,472 ||28.3 |
|Port Coquitlam ||46,682 ||26.9 |
|Surrey ||304,477 ||24.2 |
|Chilliwack ||60,186 ||21.5 |
|Langley ||80,179 ||21.4 |
|City of Abbotsford ||105,403 ||21.3 |
|Coquitlam ||101,820 ||21.2 |
|Salmon Arm ||14,664 ||21.0 |
Urban and Rural Population
Between 1991 and 1996, the population of B.C. has become more urbanised with
82% of people living in urban areas compared with 80% in 1991. The number of
persons per dwelling in urban areas is generally lower than in rural areas
- 2.57 for urban areas as compared to 2.73 for rural areas in 1996. The
stronger population growth in urban areas has contributed to even faster
growth in the number of occupied private dwellings (14.6%) than in the
population (13.5%) in the last five years. This has resulted in an overall
decline in the average number of persons per dwelling from 2.62 persons in
1991 to 2.60 persons in 1996.
Characteristics of Population Growth
Although information on the characteristics of the population growth between
1991 and 1996 is not yet available from the 1996 Census, current population
estimates provide insight into some aspects of the growth. Over three
quarters (78%) of the population gain between 1991 and 1996 was due to
migration with natural increase (births minus deaths) accounting for the rest.
International migration represented 43% and interprovincial migration 35% of
the total population increase. In comparison to the previous five years
(1986-1991), the importance of international migration as a source of
population growth has increased - from 35% to 43%, while the shares of
population growth attributable to interprovincial migration (from 37% to 35%)
and natural increase (from 28% to 22%) have decreased. On the international
side, three quarters (76%) of the immigrants to B.C. in the 1991 to 1996
period were from Asian countries (27% from Hong Kong), 12% from European
countries and 5% from the rest of North America. In the case of migration from
other provinces, 41% of net interprovincial migration to B.C. was from
Ontario, 25% from Alberta and 34% from the rest of the country.
Migrants to B.C., both from other countries and other provinces, are generally
younger than the overall population and thus the large influx of migrants
during the last five years has tended to retard the ageing of the population.
While 15 to 24 year olds accounted for 22% of the migration to B.C. between
1991 and 1996, they only represented 13% of the provincial population in 1996.
On the other hand, those 65 and over represented only 4% of the migration to
the province in the last five years, but accounted for 13% of the population