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Commuting Patterns and Places of Work of Canadians, 2006 Census: Portrait of census metropolitan areas and their municipalities

Place of work

Employment continues to grow faster in the peripheral municipalities of CMAs than in their central municipalities

Every large urban area consists of several municipalities, one of which, called the central municipality, is the one that lends its name to the CMA.1 The other municipalities are considered peripheral or neighbouring municipalities. The distribution of jobs among the different municipalities in large urban areas is important because local administrations receive property taxes from the businesses operating in their jurisdictions.

CMAs have specific features. Some consist of many more municipalities than others (for example, one hundred municipalities in Montréal, compared to only eight in Calgary), which clearly has an impact on the distribution of workers between the central and peripheral municipalities. This having been said, over the last 25 years, employment has tended to grow faster in peripheral than in central municipalities.2

The latest census data confirm this trend. Between 2001 and 2006, employment rose faster in peripheral than in central municipalities in most CMAs (see box for the difference between census subdivisions and census metropolitan areas).

Table 8
Distribution of workers in central and peripheral municipalities of census metropolitan areas, 2001 and 2006

It is important to distinguish between census metropolitan areas (CMA) and municipalities (census subdivisions – CSDs). A CMA usually consists of many municipalities, one of which, called the central municipality, lends its name to the CMA. For example, the Montréal CMA includes nearly 100 municipalities, such as Laval, Longueuil, La Prairie and Mirabel. The municipality of Montréal, on the island of Montréal, is the central municipality, that is, the census subdivision for which the CMA is named.

These trends have been observed in the three largest CMAs, i.e., Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. In Toronto, the number of people whose place of work is in a peripheral municipality rose by 12.9% between 2001 and 2006, compared to only 0.7% within the municipality of Toronto. In the Montréal CMA, the corresponding proportions rose by 12.1% and 3.7%. In Vancouver, employment rose by 9.7% in the peripheral municipalities, compared to 6.0% in the City of Vancouver.

The result of these different growth rates between central and peripheral municipalities is a decrease in the proportion of people whose place of work is inside the central municipality in the case of Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. For example, in 2006, 53.4% of Toronto CMA workers had their place of work in the municipality of Toronto, compared to 56.2% in 2001.

Despite this decentralization of workers in the peripheral municipalities, most workers continue to have their place of work in the central municipality of their CMA (in almost all CMAs).


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