The rise of VECTOM Nation
October 14, 2013 1 Comment
When Canada graduated from colony to country in 1867, it was still very much a country of farmers. In the 1861 census, only 16 percent of Canada’s 3.2 million people lived in an urban area. In the census 10 years later, urban Canada’s share of what was by then 3.7 million Canadians was just 19 percent.
The country reached a turning point shortly after the 1921 census, the final census to show Canada consisting of a rural majority — by that point, just 51 percent of a population of 8.8 million.
The migration from rural to urban Canada slowed almost to a halt during the Depression and war years, but roared again from the 1951 census onward, by which point Canada’s population was 62 percent urban.
By the 2011 census, Canada’s population was 81 percent urban and just 19 percent rural.
Just after the 2021 census — around the 100th anniversary of its graduation from a majority-rural to majority-urban nation — Canada should reach another waypoint: the arrival of a newborn or a domestic or international migrant who will make the country’s six largest metropolitan areas the majority of the Canadian population.
The rising importance of these six major metropolitan areas to the future of Canada is reflected in a media and retailing term that is getting increasingly common usage: VECTOM.
VECTOM, as you might have figured out, stands for the country’s six metro areas with populations currently greater than 1 million: Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in the west; Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in the east. As long as you have an advertising and retail presence in these six critical markets, you basically have the country conquered.
Statistics Canada has prepared a series of reference scenario estimates (see PDF p. 54, print p. 43) showing how the country’s metro areas are expected to grow — or, in some cases, shrink — by the year 2031. They estimate that Winnipeg will be somewhat larger in 2031, with a reference scenario population of 884,000 but possibly as high as 945,000 if growth is better than forecast.
Canada’s dominant city by far, however, will be Toronto, whose metro area will be home to more than eight million Canadians in 2031.
As the chart below shows, this will boost Toronto’s share of the national population from its estimated 17 percent in 2012 to 21 percent by 2031. The other five VECTOM metro areas will also gain population share, boosting VECTOM’s total share from 46 percent of Canada’s population in 2012 to 53 percent in 2031.
The next five metro areas which had populations of 500,000 or greater in 2012 — Winnipeg, Quebec City, Hamilton, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo and London, Ont. — will face mixed fortunes, but will hold on to a collective nine percent (or so) share of the national population.
Hamilton and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo are expected to hold their own over the next two decades. Winnipeg and London, Ont. are expected to gain population but lose population share.
Quebec City — where newcomers can be forgiven for feeling less than welcome thanks to the Values Charter — is expected to be the big loser among the 11 largest metro areas, losing not just population share, but actual population as well: from just under 770,000 in 2012 to 692,000 in 2031.
Collectively, the country’s 11 largest metro areas will rise from 56 percent of Canada’s population in 2012 to almost 62 percent in 2031.
Where people and money go, so too goes political influence. This should increase the importance of Toronto and the three large Alberta and B.C. cities in the nation’s affairs, the latter group’s collective share of the national population rising from 14 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2031.
Conversely, the rest of Canada outside of VECTOM will lose influence as its share of the population drops below 50 percent in the 2020s. This will be especially true outside of the 11 cities that currently have metro populations of 500,000 or more. Outside of the Big 11, the collective share of the Canadian population will drop from 44.1 percent in 2012 to an estimated 38.5 percent in 2031.