Canada-housing-market-immigration Photo: James Bombales

Canadian population growth beat expectations in the early months of 2021, with strengthening international migration driving the rebound.

First quarter data from Statistics Canada showed that the country’s population grew by 82,000, a rate that RBC Senior Economist Andrew Agopsowicz said was the fastest quarterly increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

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“The federal government’s strong push for new permanent residents resulted in immigration returning to pre-pandemic levels [in the first quarter], with most of the increase accounted for by people already temporarily living in the country,” Agopsowicz wrote in commentary published earlier this month.

The economist went on to write that new study permits issued for international students posted a healthy 44 percent annual increase while visas issued after graduation were up by 160 percent over the same quarter last year.

The pandemic had upended previously strong Canadian population growth trends thanks to its unprecedented impact on international migration. Agopsowicz wrote that even with the encouraging trends observed early in 2021, the pandemic “amounts to a lost year in terms of Canadian population growth.”

Housing market commentators have viewed the question of when population growth will return to pre-pandemic levels as a key predictor of future market performance.

The federal government is aiming to make up for the historic shortfall with its ambitious three-year plan to welcome 1.2 million immigrants to the country between 2021 and 2023. Agopsowicz wrote that Canada’s “natural increase” is likely to continue declining in the coming years thanks to an aging population, so the spotlight will be on the execution of the federal government’s immigration plan to keep up the growth momentum.

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