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

Student raises council’s awareness of ways Salmon Arm can support LGBT+ people

Councillor expresses appreciation for presentation based on family member’s experience

Salmon Arm’s request for red light camera on Highway 1 draws attention of province

Years of lobbying for camera at Trans-Canada Highway intersection might be generating results

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP surprised by Conservative leader’s resignation

Arnold predicts Conservative party will remain united in its quest to become government

Highway 1 now clear following vehicle accident

The accident occurred between Canoe Beach Dr NE and Bernie Rd

VIDEO: Your favourite Christmas light displays in the Shuswap

Residents recommend decorated homes worth checking out

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

Vernon bylaw says Frosty has to go: store owner

Vernon Teach and Learn told to take down inflatable snowman

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

In Photos: Young Sicamous dancers move to the music

Rec program dance class hosts year end recital.

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Junior Salmon Arm bowler advancing to provincials

Young Lakeside Bowling team represent city in zone competition

Vernon business evacuated after gas line hit

A natural gas line was struck, emergency responders unsure of size

Most Read