2021 Census of Population

It nerd Xmas!

This is the first of seven census releases this year. Although foundational the population and dwelling counts leave us wanting more, to really understand what is happening. The Windsor Star covered the release and I commented if you are interested. That being said we can guess at what is happening but we will find out, but we will find out together together when the rest of the data is available.

Windsor CMA

The Windsor CMA is dead, long live Windsor CMA.

As readers would know, I have a bit of a pet peeve around the Windsor Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which was previously made up of Windsor, Tecumseh, Lasalle, Lakeshore and Amherstburg. This metro geography was the basis for most of the data reported in our region between Censuses. Things like the unemployment rate was released at a CMA level despite often being reported as “Windsor’s unemployment”.

With the 2021 Census the definition of the Windsor CMA has changed from being the definition above to all of Essex County being the Windsor CMA. Setting aside the labeling issues that I assume will have some county readers rankled about be classified as part of the City of Windsor. This also have big potential implications on inter-census data it will mean that the data will be captured from the whole county, not just the five previous municipalities. Whether this is an improvement or not will depend on if sample sizes change and the level of data collection moving forward.

Full definitions can be found here of CMA/CA geography. A new reference map found here that aligns almost exactly to the Aggregate Dissemination Area boundaries (ADA).

Population Growth

The first big piece of data was the population counts outlined in the table below:

Census 2011, 2016 and 2021

A few takeaways

  • National growth of metro areas is 5.2% and Ontario averaged 5.8% so most of the region is growing robustly.
  • Amherstburg has surpassed Tecumseh in Population as the 4th largest municipality.
  • Lakeshore broke 40,000 people and could almost become it’s own CA if it wasn’t so close to Windsor.
  • Tecumseh has stagnated for two census periods now having shrunk between 2011-16 and added only 71 people in the last 5 years.
  • Leamington growth is the most surprising to me, and I will be interested to see what is making up that growth as more data becomes available.
  • Lasalle’s growth continues unabated, marching towards 50,000 people north of the Laurier Parkway as outlined in their official plan.
  • Windsor in total has outgrew the country by 3,529 people since 2011, but only 1,032 of this growth occurred since 2016.
  • Something to look for in the later census release is how many international students are in Windsor. Normally there are thousands but due to COVID and remote learning many were not in Canada. It is likely when you include international students you are breaking the 230,000 threshold.
    • Census is always timed for May/June when universities are out of session and most international students are not on campus or in Windsor.

Here are Windsor ward population breakdowns. Note: Census DA do not perfectly align with Ward boundaries as a result actually totals may vary when available but this will give you a ball park idea. I did rejig some of the DAs to Ward aligns as population changes on DA that straddle two Wards led me to shift some from one ward to another.

Population by ward by Census
  • The big surprise is Ward 2 IMO.
    • Although we don’t know all of the details, I would suspect that international/other students do play bit of a role in that growth. The Census is captured in May/June when students tend to be off campus, a portion of students do stay through the summer particular those with internship and other accelerated programs.
    • Another factor could be the last vestiges of affordable units are leading to co-habitation arrangements in a lower cost part of the city.
  • Ward 7 growth is insane! (slight different number than RCP reported this week due to me tweaking my boundary definitions.)
  • The fact that Ward 8 hasn’t grown is also interesting. Although there is now development pending, the Ward has been pretty flat in terms of populations.

Overall the core Wards (2-6) were outgrown by the suburban wards as Wards (1 & 7-10) which now have approximately 1,000 more residents, compared to 2016 where the gap was only a few hundred different.

Dwelling Counts

Private Dwellings as defined by Statistics Canada as:

Private dwelling refers to a separate set of living quarters with a private entrance either from outside the building or from a common hall, lobby, vestibule or stairway inside the building. The entrance to the dwelling must be one that can be used without passing through the living quarters of some other person or group of persons.

Statistics Canada Census Definitions

Dwellings give us an idea of how many places to live there are in a ward. The definition does capture some non-traditional dwellings like a hotel where each unit could be a dwelling as a kitchen isn’t required to be a dwelling.

You can think the change value as where new dwelling units have been put in place. Windsor certainly have more dwellings but the non-traditional nature of more those units (jotels, university residences etc.) mean it is less likely that they are all resided in regularly. By ward it looks like this:

Note: Ward Boundaries are not perfectly aligned some minor variation could be found.

Within the City you can see where new units have come online.

  • The shrinkage in Ward 2 is particularly interested and can be partially traced to the dwellings that used to be on Indian Road that were demolished by the Ambassador Bridge. It creates and interesting dynamic in the Ward is growing very fast from a population perspective but there are less places for people to live.
  • The growth in Ward 7 is seemingly keeping pace with population growth. The slow growth in Wards 4-6 is largely due to the infill nature of developments in those areas and less available land for significant developments.

The data also captures which dwelling are regularly inhabited, which brings population and dwelling together to a degree as not every house is always populated and things like Airbnb or hotels provide dwelling space but are not regularly inhabited. From my understanding abandon homes (like around the Ambassador Bridge) and homes that are vacant for sale/rent are not considered occupied at the time of the Census. Some

I don’t think there is a sweet spot or anything around occupied dwellings. Leamington having a low regularly occupied dwelling count could have to do with bunk housing in the greenhouse/agricultural sector. Tecumseh’s high dwelling occupancy could be contributing to it’s slower growth. Within the City we find.

I suspect both Wards 2 and 3 have lower occupancy rates for different reasons. Ward 3 is home to most of the city’s hotels while Ward 2 has a number of boarded up homes, students residences etc. that are technically dwellings, but not regularly inhabited. I don’t really know why Ward 4 is a bit lower, it is weird to me – maybe we need to let people move into Willstead Manor?


Obviously there are maps. First is percentage change in population:

A 10% change +/- is not a significant swing and that accounts for most of the County’s DAs (Yellow color -/+10%). Most of the population declines occurred in rural parts of Essex County while Lasalle see the highest growing DA with the area of Heritage Estate growing at over 124%. The one that shrank by almost 98% is a tiny little DA that shouldn’t exist and I have no why it is there

Not sure why this DA exists.

I did similar maps for dwelling change as well.

Dwelling counts a line up with population for the most part. You can see some of the parts of Ward 2 that saw declines in dwellings around Bloomfield and Indian road so signs point the Bridge’s demotions being the driver.

Population Density

Obviously you are take this population data and apply it to the geographic space and have a population density. I didn’t have 2011 numbers for the county on hand so it is missing from this table.

At some point in the future I will breakout the population density of the urban areas of the County municipalities. At the time of 2016 Census in many cases they were more dense than parts of Windsor and since no DA were added to the county their population increases we be captured by historic boundaries. Within the City we see:

Again a point to note is the exact geographic size of the wards are different due to the census boundaries that I calculated this total from. The core (Ward 2-6) certainly added more people per sq km despite adding less total people than the rest of the city. Part of this is due to the smaller ward size of the core wards, an additional person being divided by a smaller geographic area results in a larger overall impact.

Population from City Centre

The last piece of data that released was related to urban centres growing. Unfortunately this data is only available at the NEW Windsor CMA -so all of Essex County. They tracked where population growth was occurring urban areas – downtown, downtown fringe, near suburb, intermediate suburb or distant suburb. By their definition they use employment data to determine where a downtown is, then they measure outwards from that geography. The results for the Windsor CMA are as follows:

I can’t say exactly how they defined Windsor’s Downtown beyond 24 DAs making it up representing 3.5% of the CMA population approximately 14,000 people and about 10% of jobs. If I had to roughly define the geographies I would estimate the Downtown is Ward 3 core. Urban fringe is the rest of Ward 3, as well as Wards, 2,4,5 and possibly parts of 10. The near suburb covers much of the rest of Windsor and well as near parts of Lasalle, intermediate suburb is Tecumseh, Western Lakeshore, the rest of Lasalle, Essex Centre and possibly parts of Amherstburg. Distant suburb is the rest of the county.

When compared to other SW Ontario communities we find.

There are a few takeaways to consider. I think the takeaway from this is that Windsor CMA is by far the least urban dense region in SW Ontario. Even in the innermost ring of “urban fringe” sees a smaller share of the population compared to all other communities except St. Catharines/Niagara.


Obviously there are lots of questions that comes from this data. A few off the top of my head:

  • International students – were they here during COVID?
    • This is the only think that I can think of to support the crazy growth in Ward 2. The bulk of this population growth occurred east of the University until Campbell Ave, North of College Ave. within the surrounding established neighbourhoods. Likely this is being driven by conversion of existing housing stock.
    • Another high growth areas in Ward 2 is home to Cardinal Place that since 2016 has expanded the number of floors and residents in the neighbourhood.
  • Ward 7 and Lakeshore growth are pretty clear with new subdivisions since 2016 driving their new growth and units.
  • Obviously migration data will be important see in the coming months as all of these people need to becoming from somewhere. The question is where?
  • At first blush COVID doesn’t seem to have significantly impacted the Census population data. Deaths from COVID are largely a non-factor in the Census data particularly at the scale of this census data. The total number of deaths would contribute <-0.1 based on our population.
  • The structure of Windsor compared to other SW Ontario municipalities is a unique challenge for those wanting to advocate for a denser and more
  • The next release the provides: age, gender and housing type data and will be out in April.

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