Canada records highest population growth rate in G7

A man lies on the ground during a weekly yoga class on the front lawn of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, August 31 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s population increased to 35.2 million people in 2016, driven largely by immigration and making for the highest annual growth rate among its Group of Seven peers, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday.

The population increased by 1.7 million people, or 5.0 percent, as of last year compared to the last time the census was taken in 2011. However, the growth rate was down from the 5.9 percent increase seen over the previous 2006-to-2011 period.

About two-thirds of the increase to 2016 was due to a migratory increase, which is the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants, while just one-third was due to the difference between the number of births and deaths.

Economists expect Canada will have to depend on immigration to drive economic growth as its citizens age. Population growth is expected to be increasingly linked to immigration due to a low fertility rate and aging population, Statistics Canada said.

With an average annual growth rate of 1.0 percent a year from 2011 to 2016, Canada led the G7 and ranked eighth among G20 countries.

Population growth was higher in the western part of the country where there are generally more job opportunities. The number of people living in the Atlantic provinces continued to grow more slowly than elsewhere in Canada and even declined in the small east coast province of New Brunswick, the only region in Canada to do so.

Alberta, home to Canada’s energy sector, had the fastest growth rate of the provinces with a 11.6 percent increase, more than double the national average.

Ontario held its ranking as most populous province with 38.3 percent of Canada’s population residing there. Although the population growth rates in Ontario and Quebec were below the national average, three in five Canadians lived in the central provinces.

Canada, like many developed countries, is facing a changing demographic landscape, and the census figures will be looked at by economists and policymakers to chart the country’s long-term growth prospects.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Bill Trott