Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Boomtown Toronto: Trinity-Spadina accounts for 26% of recent population growth

By: Metro Canada Published on Thu Aug 16 2012

If Trinity-Spadina, the Toronto riding represented by NDP MP Olivia Chow, stood as its own municipality, it would be the third fastest-growing municipality in Ontario—growing faster even than the sprawl factories in Brampton and Vaughan.

According to recent census figures by Statistics Canada, nearly 30,000 new residents moved into the 18.6 km² area of downtown Toronto between 2006 and 2011, making for a staggering 25.5% increase in population in just five years.To put that into perspective: that means about 3% of the land area in Toronto accounted for more than 26% of the city's recent population growth.

In 2001, Trinity-Spadina was the third smallest federal riding in Toronto. In 2006, it was the fifth largest. In 2011, it became the biggest. (There was some minor redrawing of the riding's borders during that time, but the impact on population was pretty minimal.)

These stats really aren't too surprising when you consider the insane number of cranes that crowd Toronto's skyline. But the numbers do go a long way toward contextualizing the changing face of our city and the impact of the prolonged condo boom. While Toronto's suburbs still represent a staid majority, the trend toward downtown living is kind of hard to ignore. People are putting a premium on dense, walkable neighbourhoods like never before.

It's time more politicians started to acknowledge that.

A map of population growth broken down by federal riding—ward-by-ward data is not yet available—reveals some other stories.

Most interesting to me is that the epicentre of the condo boom in Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre (up 7%) is bordered by neighbourhoods that have seen limited or no population growth. Even Parkdale-High Park and Beaches-East York, which feature to-die-for real estate markets, aren't showing huge population growth.

It's no mystery as to why. As prices rise and gentrification gentrifies, multi-unit houses that were once home to large working-class families have been snatched up and renovated for a million-dollar market of smaller families or no-kids couples. At the same time, developers have had a hard time selling new project proposals with residents in these areas—even low- and mid-rise development provoke calamity.

Beyond that, the anemic growth in the city's northern corners only pours more water on some of the fiery pro-subway arguments made during council's recent transit debate. Scarborough shows no signs of achieving the levels of growth and density necessary to support something like Mayor Rob Ford's pet subway project. And while Finch Avenue desperately needs improved transit service, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is never going to be able to make a realistic case for a Finch subway.

But that's old news.

Underscoring all this demographic nerdery is the salient point: is there any connection between these areas of growth and the city's plans for infrastructure and services? Are we building the city to actually meet this growth? Or are we just wasting time debating whether the mayor is allowed to read things while he drives?

Wait. Nevermind. I already know the answer.

This post was originally published at on 2012-08-16T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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