New work from Queen’s University

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Canada is a suburban nation. Two-thirds of our country’s total population lives in suburbs.

New work on the suburban nature of Canadian development from a team led by David Gordon at Queen’s University has shown the following:

  • The low density auto suburbs and exurbs are growing much faster than inner cities and inner suburbs.
  • Even the Toronto and Vancouver metro areas saw five times as much population growth in auto suburbs and exurbs compared to active cores and transit suburbs, despite their inner-city condo booms.
  • If these trends continue, Canada will become even more suburban in the future, with an increase in the problems caused by low-density auto-dependent neighbourhoods.

In our largest metropolitan areas, the proportion of suburban residents is over 80%, even in the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal regions. Their downtowns may be full of new condo towers, but there is five times as much growth on the suburban edges of the regions.

We routinely hear that Canada is one of the world’s most urbanized nations, but that does not mean that most Canadians live in apartments and travel by public transit. Although Statistics Canada now estimates that our 2011 “urban” population was 81%, this category includes downtown, inner-city, suburban and exurban development. Initial estimates by Gordon’s team indicate that perhaps two thirds of the Canadian population live in neighbourhoods that most observers would consider suburban (i.e. cars and many post-war single homes).

Samples of the team’s work can be seen here for the three largest CMAs:

Gordon Suburb Montreal google earth map image


Gordon Suburb Toronto 2011 Google earth image


Gordon Suburb Vancouver 2011 google earth image


The team has had their work featured in the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen (1, 2, 3), Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun, and the StarPhoenix.