Greater Sudbury is growing, but more people moving to the outskirts

The latest census figures show Greater Sudbury grew over the last five years, but not by much. They also show that more people are moving just outside of city limits.

Markstay-Warren, West Nipissing, French River all see population jumps

Greater Sudbury grew by about 1,257 people between 2011 and 2016. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

With mineral prices in the eighth year of an extended slump, dozens of people laid off in the local mining supply sector and the housing market slowing down, some in Sudbury were fearing bad news would come with the first numbers of the 2016 census on Wednesday.

But the chair of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce chair Tracey Nutt isn't too surprised to see the city grew slightly over the last five years by 1,257 people.

"Business is slower, business is down a little bit," she says she has heard from members.

"We haven't heard any real horror stories."

But the city's growth has definitely slowed, with the population climbing by over 5,000 between 2001 and 2011.

Meanwhile, the small towns neighbouring Greater Sudbury are getting bigger.

West Nipissing, which has become northern Ontario's largest bedroom community with commuters going to both North Bay and Sudbury, increased by just 215 in the last five years, but its population has increased over 1,000 people since the paper mill that was the town's main employer closed in the early 2000s.

The latest census shows more people are moving to the small towns surrounding Greater Sudbury and commuting into the city. (Erik White/CBC )

Markstay-Warren saw its population jump by 359 to 2,656 in the last five years, an increase of over 10 per cent.

The chair of the local economic development council, Fern Belanger, says most are young families who work in Sudbury and want a cheaper house with a country lifestyle, so they build or renovate homes in Markstay.

"As long as we keep pushing and Sudbury keep raising their prices and their development costs, it's going to be good for smaller areas around the city," says Belanger.

Belanger says he hopes this trend will help Markstay-Warren attract more businesses, because he says right now the town is becoming too much of a suburb and people have to go into Sudbury or Sturgeon Falls for shopping.

French River also saw a increase over the last five years, with 220 new residents bringing its population up to 2,662.

Mayor Claude Bouffard says some are Sudbury commuters, but many are people from southern Ontario, who buy or build riverfront cottages that they hope to retire in one day.

Bouffard also owns a local hardware store and says he asks newcomers who come in to buy building supplies why they've chosen, 

"99 per cent of them: 'Your taxes are very low,'" he says.