Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, March 12 Online Edition, Posted at 11:19 AM EST
British Columbia's population growth continued to outpace the national average but new data from Statistics Canada show this trend is slowing.
The 2001 census data released Tuesday by Statscan show that British Columbia's population growth rate was 4.9 per cent between 1996 and 2001, compared with the national growth rate of 4 per cent.
British Columbia's population was 3,907,738 on Census Day last May 13, up from 3,724,500 in 1996.
British Columbia is the only province in the country that has grown faster than the national average in every census since it joined Confederation in 1871.
While the province's growth rate was higher than the national average, it was less than half the 13.5-per-cent increase it saw between 1991 and 1996. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, British Columbia led with the highest growth rate of all provinces.
Statscan cites the slowdown in growth to a significant change in migration patterns between provinces. Between 1996 and 2001, B.C. lost 40,000 people to other provinces. In the previous census period, it gained 170,000 citizens from other provinces. However, British Columbia also saw a high number of international immigrants settle in the province.
The 2001 census found that more than two-thirds of the province's population is concentrated in the Lower Mainland and south Vancouver Island. This region — consisting of major urban areas such as Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford — had a population of just over 2.7-million people in 2001, up 7.3 per cent from 1996. The main reason for growth was international immigration, Statscan found.
More than 180,000 immigrants settled in the Vancouver area between 1996 to 2001 — similar to the growth rate in Toronto.
The Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island region accounted for 69 per cent of the province's total population and 9 per cent of the country's population.
Whistler — the popular ski resort — remained among the fastest growing municipalities in the country, but its rate slowed dramatically — to 24 per cent between 1996 and 2001, down from 61 per cent between 1991 and 1996, when it was the nation's fastest growing municipality.
Cities in the Lower Mainland — Surrey, Richmond, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge — each grew by 10 per cent or more, the 2001 Census found. Their growth outpaced that of southern Vancouver Island — a popular retirement area where population increased by only 2.7 per cent. It attracted few immigrants and, because of the relative age of its population, did not see a natural increase from births.