Hamilton Population Growth Slow and Steady but still Good
February 9, 2012 The Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton’s 3.1 per cent population growth may look modest beside Burlington’s 6.9 per cent, but it’s still good, says Hamilton’s economic director, Neil Everson.
“Hamilton has traditionally had a long steady growth … But it is an increase.”
New census data from Statistics Canada on Wednesday shows the city’s population grew 3.1 per cent to 519,949 in the five years up to 2011. That’s about 15,000 more than the 504,559 population in 2006.
GRAPHIC: Population change in Hamilton between 2006 and 2011
Everson believes the growth is driven by Toronto and GTA residents and businesses relocating because of Hamilton’s lower cost of living and costs of doing business and good quality of life.
Statistics Canada demographer André Lebel, however, said the growth is driven mostly by immigrants. Two-thirds of the growth in the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area — a larger area than the city which includes Burlington and Grimsby — came from immigration.
Lebel couldn’t say if new immigrants have ties to the business investments Hamilton has seen in the past few years. Details, including where the immigrants are coming from, will be in a future census report in 2013.
Arsim Aliu, the Hamilton YMCA’s manager of immigration settlement services, said most new immigrants here are from South Asia — Pakistan, India, China, the Philippines and other countries.
Although a large portion comes through sponsorship and under the family reunification classification, many also come here as independents, which means they have money. Once here, they often look for business opportunities, Aliu said.
But overall, fewer immigrants than before are coming to Ontario and Hamilton.
Ontario’s slower growth rate is related to fewer immigrants coming to the province, and from people leaving for other parts of the country, Lebel said.
“The proportion of immigrants settling in Ontario has been diminishing.”
Although immigration still accounts for the greatest part of population growth, there is some growth in the population already here.
“Ontario still has more births than deaths,” Lebel said.
Same goes for the Hamilton CMA. From 2006 to 2011, there was a natural population increase of 800 because there were 5,300 births and 4,500 deaths.
Bill Janssen, Hamilton’s director of strategic services, is trying to bring more information to the numbers Stats Canada released. “There are three ways to get population growth — births, migration from other cities, and immigration.”
Everson still puts a lot of emphasis on Hamilton’s economic emergence for the growth.
“Canada Bread, for example, is closing three plants in Toronto — we know some of those employees have already moved here.”
With companies like Canada Bread, Maple Leaf Foods and Tim Hortons opening large operations here, “people are coming for jobs and moving here. It’s one of the contributing factors (of the growth).”
“We (also) had 320 new jobs in our creative industry sector in the downtown.”
Everson also points out that the Real Estate Investment Network last May identified Hamilton as the third best city in Canada and best in Ontario to invest in, and in 2009, Foreign Direct Investment magazine named Hamilton the third best largest city in North America in quality of life.
He also points to the 20.8 per cent population increase in Brampton and says, “From an economic development perspective, we’ve beaten them in the nonresidential growth.”
Hamilton’s growth rate will take off, he expects, once the city gets full.