Well, today is election day and as we pause and wait for the results later today, why not take another look at northern Ontario's population but this time with numbers from the 2017 BMA Municipal Study. Two items for your consideration. First, a table showing population in the major northern Ontario municipalities as well as the growth rates of their population for the period 2006 to 2011 and 2011 to 2016. The table ranks the cities from the highest to lowest growth rates for the period 2011 to 2016 and they show that at the top are Parry Sound and Greater Sudbury. Their populations have continued to expand and while their proximity to the GTA and its opportunities may be a factor it remains that proximity has not helped North Bay. Also of interest is Elliot Lake which has taken to marketing itself as a retirement community. Despite an aging population, people are not retiring to Elliot Lake in droves.
With the north not really growing while Ontario's population rises, its share of Ontario's population is also declining. However, in this case it turns out that the North has plenty of company when it comes to shrinking population shares. The figure below - also taken from the 2017 BMA Municipal Study (using data from the Ontario Finance Ministry) plots the population share of each of Ontario's regions since 1991 and projected to 2041. It turns out that each region is expected to decline as a share of Ontario's population by 2041 with the exception of the GTA. The GTA is projected to rise from 42% in 1991 to hit 53% by 2041. As for northern Ontario - it is going from 8 percent of the population in 1991 to 4 percent by 2041. At present it is about 7 percent.
Two things. First, Ontario is becoming increasingly lopsided in terms of population and employment with the GTA enjoying a perpetual boom and the rest of the province with perhaps the exception of the Ottawa area undergoing a slow stagnation. This will be a major challenge for the next government when it comes to dealing with the provincial economy. Second, as many of you are aware, there was an increase in riding numbers for today's elections - there are now 124 seats in the legislature up for grabs. Of those, 13 are in northern Ontario which means that 10 percent of the election ridings are in the north but only about 7 percent of the population. Whatever northerners may think about their relative alienation and neglect by the south, it remains that their votes yield clout out of proportion to their population numbers. Northern Ontario needs to make use of this influence while it still retains it. It is unlikely that 2041 will see the north with 10 percent of the seats in the legislature but only 4 percent of the population.