Ottawa-Gatineau's population rose to more than 1.3 million people in 2016, but at a slower growth compared to western municipalities resulting in a drop to the fifth-largest city in Canada.

Statistics Canada's first data from the 2016 Census showed the metropolitan area — which includes Ottawa, Gatineau and nearby municipalities — grew 5.5 per cent to 1,323,783 people. That's slower growth than the previous census in 2011, which had shown growth of 9.0 per cent in the region.

With a higher rate of growth, Calgary overtook Ottawa-Gatineau as the fourth-largest metropolitan area, behind Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The City of Ottawa's population grew from 883,391 in 2011 to 934,243 in 2016, at a growth rate of about 5.8 per cent.

Other major centres that saw their population grow in eastern Ontario and west Quebec include Thurso, Que., (14.8 per cent), Clarence-Rockland, Ont., (5.7 per cent), Gracefield, Que., (4.5 per cent) and Gatineau (4.1 per cent).

Meanwhile, some cities saw declines, including Maniwaki, Que., (-2.0 per cent), Brockville, Ont., (-2.4 per cent) and Pembroke, Ont., (-3.3 per cent).

Suburbs spur city growth

Statistics Canada breaks down population and growth at the smallest level into what it calls census tracts, which don't necessarily conform to municipal wards or existing communities. But a look at the change in population in those tracts still reveals a few patterns.

In Ottawa, much of the double-digit population growth is occurring in suburbs such as Kanata, Barrhaven and Cumberland, as well as in pockets of the city's downtown.

The tracts that saw the largest growth were:

  • Half Moon Bay-west Stonebridge, where the population more than doubled from 8,016 to 16,747. That tract had the highest population of any in Ottawa-Gatineau.
  • The Findlay Creek neighbourhood at Leitrim and Bank, which nearly doubled from 4,486 to 8,865 people.
  • A section of the Avalon neighbourhood in Cumberland west of Portobello Drive and mostly south of Brian Coburn Drive, which grew from 5,520 to 9,933 people.

While some tracts saw more people move in, others saw populations stay stagnant or drop. The biggest drop was in the Chinatown/Little Italy neighbourhood, where the population dropped 15 per cent, from 4,221 to 3,589 people.

On the Quebec side, the Aylmer and Plateau neighbourhoods and outlying communities including Thurso and Val-Des-Monts showed the greatest growth.