In Montreal, the West Island's loss is the North Shore's gain, census figures show

The trend of urban sprawl is alive and well in the Montreal area as young families opt for bigger spaces at affordable prices away from the big city, ​census figures reveal.

Kirkland, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, D.D.O., Beaconsfield all lost residents in the last 5 years

Census data released Wednesday shows people are leaving Montreal and choosing to settle on the island's North and South Shores instead. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

The trend of urban sprawl is alive and well in the Montreal area, as young families opt for bigger spaces at affordable prices away from the big city, ​census figures reveal.

The data, released this morning, shows the population on the island of Montreal and surrounding cities continued to fall while far-flung suburbs on the South and North Shores grew dramatically over the last five years.

Although the hemorrhage from urban centres is a national trend, it was sharply seen in metro Montreal. Of the 29 urban municipalities that lost people nationwide, more than half – 16 – were in and around the city.


Population losses were especially felt in the West Island, with Kirkland, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Dollard-des-Ormeaux and Beaconsfield all recording losses.

Kirkland, for instance, lost 5.2 per cent of its population, going from 21,250 people in 2011 to 20,150 last year, the second-biggest loss in the country.

Nowhere left to build?

The data does not explain why these areas are most affected, but demographer Jonathan Chagnon says these areas are older, established municipalities with aging populations.

"Children are probably moving out of the nest," Chagnon said. "These are municipalities where there is no place left to build."

On the other hand, once tiny municipalities on the edges of the metro area saw double-digit growth. Saint-Colomban, northwest of Mirabel, gained 3,000 people in five years, an increase of 22.5 per cent.
Saint-Colomban, north of Mirabel, gained 3,000 residents in five years, an increase of 22.5 per cent. (Radio-Canada)

Mirabel grew by 20 per cent, and Carignan, east of Brossard, 18.8 per cent.

"Young families tend to move farther where there is more space, more land, and costs are lower," Chagnon said.

Still, metropolitan areas around the country continue to grow. Metro Montreal grew 4.2 per cent to 4.1 million residents.

The City of Montreal gained 55,000 people, but it was a modest increase of 3.3 per cent, well below the national average of 5.8 per cent for large urban municipalities.

The data on age and gender will be released later this year, but Chagnon says younger people are the drivers of population growth in city centres.

Population growth slowing

Off island, the areas that have seen the most growth include:

  • Mirabel, where one neighbourhood now has 9,098 residents, an increase of about 72 per cent.
  • Brossard, where one neighbourhood now has 10,063 residents, an increase of about 60 per cent.
  • Vaudreuil, where one neighbourhood now has 11,737 residents, an increase of 40.5 per cent.
  • Repentigny, where one neighbourhood now has 8,429 residents, an increase of about 37 per cent.
  • L'Assomption, where one neighbourhood now has 7,895 residents, an increase of about 31 per cent.
A new apartment complex for retirees under construction on de la Gare Boulevard in Vaudreuil. (Ainslie MacLellan/CBC)

While the population in areas that include a number of Quebec's big cities — Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec and Trois-Rivières — has gone up since 2011, the population growth rate is slowing down.

Only the Saguenay census metropolitan area has seen an uptick in its population growth rate, and not by much. From 2011 to 2016, the rate grew by 1.5 per cent and currently sits at 160,980.


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