Always ticking: Canada’s population clock shows demographic changes in real time

Online tool from Statistics Canada offers an evocative snapshot of the country’s ever-shifting population

A Quebecer moves to the Northwest Territories, a family in Newfoundland and Labrador welcomes a new arrival, another in British Columbia mourns a loss, an immigrant settles somewhere in Ontario.

READ MORE: Canadians more likely to take pride in the present than history, poll says

Within the span of just a few minutes, an online tool from Statistics Canada offers an evocative snapshot of the country’s ever-shifting population through a series of statistically modelled demographic events.

The so-called “population clock” — which went live shortly after Canada Day last year — uses StatCan data to present a real-time visualization of the country’s major demographic trends, including births, deaths, immigration and emigration.

Watching it is somewhat akin to playing a real-life, nationwide version of the city-building video game SimCity: coloured bars representing births, deaths and various migrations slowly fill up or deplete, leading to animations on a map showing each occurrence playing out across the country.

It’s not quite true to life, of course — the federal government doesn’t claim to be tracking every individual in the country in real-time — but one of the page’s main designers says it’s pretty close.

Patrick Charbonneau, a senior analyst with StatCan’s demography division, says the model is based on the agency’s latest population estimates, which are updated every three months.

“The counts that are shown in the population clock are strictly for visualization purposes, to give Canadians a sense of how fast the population is changing. It’s more of a learning tool than a decision-making tool,” said Charbonneau.

“But those numbers are still obtained through really robust methodology nevertheless.”

Charbonneau said the agency launched the clock in an effort to increase “statistical literacy” in the general population — particularly among young Canadians — and to give people a sense of how the population is changing.

“I think it’s something that everyone should be able to know — how fast the population is changing … What is the rhythm? What is the pace?” said Charbonneau.

He said the clock has proven popular in its first year, becoming one of the most-visited pages on StatCan’s website. He said he’s also heard accounts from teachers who have shown it in their classrooms to introduce students to population studies.

Howard Ramos, a professor of sociology at Dalhousie University, said it’s important for Canadians to maintain a life-long interest in the demographic trends that continue to shape the country.

“I think that a lot of Canadians would even be surprised by the overall population — we’re now at 37 and a half million people. I think a lot of people’s notion of how big we are or how populated we are is often frozen by what they got in high school social studies,” he said.

“It would offer a lot of insight on the importance of immigration in Canada. I think that certainly you see that in the bigger cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. But in the rest of the country, this tool really shows the impact and the importance of immigration to maintaining our population, not to mention growing it.”

Ramos urged Canadians to check out the tool for themselves, and if they find it interesting, to “dig into” the vast amount of data available on Statistics Canada’s website.

“This is a great way for us to get to know who we are,” he said.

“If you live only in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, you might not know what it’s like to live in the Yukon, or in Cape Breton, or in the Prairies. And these kinds of tools allow us to begin to see what those places look like, and begin to imagine them.”

Adam Burns, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Customer appreciation supper held in Castor

About 440 were served at the event, which was sponsored by UFA, Filipenko Brothers Const., Food Fair and Ok Tire

Trudeau has won the most seats — but not a majority. What happens next?

Trudeau will have to deal with some of the implications of Monday’s result

LIVE MAP: Results in Canada’s 2019 federal election

Polls are now closed across the country

Federal election saw 66% of registered voters hit the polls across Canada

Roughly 18 million people cast their ballots, voting in a Liberal minority government

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Rebels extend losing streak to 5 against ‘Canes

4-3 loss comes after a disappointing 6-5 S/O loss on Saturday

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

PODCAST: Political Scientist Marc Froese discusses the results of the Federal Election

Western alienation, results, minority governments and more highlight this week’s The Expert podcast

Husky Energy lays off staff to align with lower spending plans and strategy

Company had 5,157 permanent employees at end of 2018, according to regulatory filing

‘Issue-by-issue parliament’: Expert says Liberals need to placate NDP to be effective

Scandals, social issues, racism defined 2019 federal election, SFU prof says

‘Wexit’ talk percolates day after Liberals returned to power with minority

An online petition is calling for a western alliance and Alberta to separate

Opposition to Trans Mountain won’t change, B.C. minister says

Pipeline projects proceed under minority Trudeau government

Alleged RCMP secret leaker must stay with B.C. parents while on bail

Cameron Ortis, 47, is charged with violating the Security of Information Act

Most Read