P.E.I. fastest-growing province in Canada, census shows

With population growth of 8.0 per cent since the 2016 census, P.E.I. ranks as the fastest growing province in the country, according the first release of data from the 2021 census.

Cornwall ranks as fastest growing community on P.E.I.

Growth in P.E.I.'s rural areas was relatively strong. (Submitted by Libby Whelan)

With population growth of 8.0 per cent since the 2016 census, P.E.I. ranks as the fastest growing province in the country, according the first release of data from the 2021 census.

Nationally the population grew 5.2 per cent. P.E.I. edged out B.C. for the fastest growing province. B.C.'s population grew 7.6 per cent.

The census counted 154,331 Islanders. The current estimate for the population is 165,936. The difference represents what is known as undercount, those Islanders not captured by the census. Over the next year Statistics Canada will begin to reconcile census data with other data to establish a new population figure.

Patrick Brannon, a senior research economist with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, said growth on the Island is being driven by migration, people moving in from other provinces and other countries. With the birth rate on the Island low, as it is across Canada, that migration is helping keep the economy going.

APEC economist Patrick Brannon chose a P.E.I. background for his Zoom interview with CBC. (CBC)

"It's very important that we have new population coming in, whether it's from other countries or other provinces, to meet the needs of the jobs that are here," said Brannon.

P.E.I. has been a destination province for some time, he said, and while those newcomers are important, the population growth has also created some high-profile problems, such as a shortage of housing and doctors.

Brannon expects this migration pattern to continue. P.E.I.'s immigrant retention has been the worst in the country, but he believes that will improve with new programs that have come online.

Fixing problems like the housing shortage, however, will be central to keeping people coming.

"Housing is something most bigger cities in the country are dealing with. Charlottetown is no different. Housing prices are growing there very strongly. People are being priced out of the market, and even the apartment vacancy rates are very low," he said.

"It's tough and that's something that needs to be fixed or it's going to impact the flow of people into your province and retention rates."

North Shore communities growing

Cornwall came out as the fastest growing community on the Island, among communities with a population of 1,000 or more. The top five were:

  1. Cornwall: +22.9%.
  2. North Shore: +16.2%.
  3. Malpeque Bay: +15.6%.
  4. New London: +15.2%.
  5. Alberton: +13.6%.

Stratford, long recognized as fastest growing, fell to sixth at 12.5 per cent.

Canada increasingly urban

The list is representative of how population growth on P.E.I. is bucking a national trend.

Four of the communities are what would be considered rural on the Island, that is, not adjacent or part of one of the province's two cities.

Meanwhile Canada is becoming increasingly urban. At 10.9 per cent, the population growth in downtown cores was more than double the growth for the country as a whole.

P.E.I.'s urban communities grew 9.5 per cent, only a little more than the provincial average.

Almost three quarters of Canadians are living in cities, while on the Island the urban-rural split is roughly equal.

While there is not much difference in rural versus urban growth, there is a tendency for people to settle toward the middle of the province.

Queens County grew 9.7 cent, Kings was up 6.8 per cent, and the population of Prince rose 5.3 per cent.


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at


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