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As long as Toronto: COVID-19 pandemic accelerates Canada’s urban flight

As long as Toronto: COVID-19 pandemic accelerates Canada's urban flight

People queue for their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots at a clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Center as the latest Omicron variant emerges as a threat, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Cole Burston NO SALE. NO ARCHIVES

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OTTAWA, Jan. 13 (Reuters) – Canada’s urban flight picked up steam in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands of people leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller cities or rural areas, official data showed on Thursday.

More than 64,000 people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, a 14% increase from the previous 12-month period, according to Statistics Canada’s population estimates, and another 6,600 leaving the province .

Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city, lost nearly 40,000 residents to other parts of Quebec, up 60% from the year, while another 3,600 left the province.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote working have prompted tens of thousands of Canadians to flee large and expensive cities in search of more space and cheaper real estate, in small centers, rural villages and coastal areas.

That contributed to a nationwide housing boom, with prices in suburbs and small towns rising faster than in urban centers, fueling concerns that locals could be priced out and putting pressure on municipal services. read more

Nationally, the typical home in Canada now costs C$780,400 ($624,870), a 34% increase, or nearly C$200,000, since March 2020.

Atlantic Canada has done well during the exodus. Halifax, Nova Scotia, added more than 6,000 people in the year to June 30, 2021, the vast majority of whom were from outside the province.

Rural Quebec has boomed, with more than 25,000 people living in urban centers in the predominantly French-speaking province.

The cities in the so-called Golden Horseshoe around Toronto are also seeing a strong influx. Oshawa added 8,000 people as residents poured in from Toronto, and both Hamilton and St. Catharines gained nearly 5,000.

Immigration offset some of Toronto’s population losses.

($1 = 1.2489 Canadian dollars)

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Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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