Where's and whys of Montreal's population loss

Montreal on losing end of regional net migration

Montreal lost nearly 50,000 residents last year. In 2020-2021, the island welcomed 30,200 people from elsewhere in Quebec but saw 78,500 people leave, representing a net loss of 48,300, 2.56% of its population, across all age groups.

According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ), inter-regional net migration losses have soared since 2016-2017 when Montreal’s net loss was 19,869 people. Last year’s peak is the highest number since data was first collected two decades ago, equal to losing the population of Lachine.

Montreal’s opposition wants the city to find out why. Ensemble Montréal’s Sonny Moroz and Tétreaultville councillor Julien Hénault-Ratelle want the Plante administration to hire a firm to survey former Montrealers about their choices and mandate the city’s Commission sur le développement économique et urbain et l’habitation to examine city policies for their potential influence on outward migration.

The pair will present a motion at the January 24 council that states 100,000 people already commute between the outskirts and the Montreal Metropolitan Community, 94% by car, and 34,000 commute to the agglomeration. It also cites an Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec survey published last month that shows 66% of Montreal homeowners who want to sell will move to a suburb within the next five years.

“We’ve seen growth of the exodus to the suburbs during the pandemic, but this is not because of the pandemic” Moroz told The Suburban. “It has been getting worse for years and is now accelerating.” The Snowdon councillor agrees that cheaper properties and tax-dollar value is attractive to those seeking to set down roots but suggested there could be many more reasons “as Montreal continues to shoulder the burden of suburban workers using the city and services but paying taxes elsewhere.”

“Ask people why they left, what they feel about it, and what they’re getting out of it. We need to analyze which policies we have in place that might be accelerating that. We can guess about it, complain about sidewalks and cement as regular go-tos but it’s time to get serious about it. And we also have to stop being surprised at this type of motion and figure out how to reverse the trend.”

Maybe Montreal can’t offer everyone a large backyard but there are things that it can he says, lamenting that the city is losing economic weight, visible in stalled projects like the Blue Line. “What was the last thing we got done in terms of a metro, a new station in Laval? We are talking about the quality of life as we try to move towards a 15-minute city (where you can get where you need to be in 15 minutes). But with urban sprawl that becomes a joke.”

According to the ISQ, the Montérégie was the biggest winner of Montreal’s loss (17,200 people) followed by the Lanaudière, the Laurentians and Laval.

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