Population Projections Project for Canada's Census Areas

How can society intelligently participate in the setting of local to national priorities if the population does not understand where we are and where we are heading on current trends?1

The Population Projections Project (PPP) is an encyclopedic reference with which to understand where we are and where we are heading on current demographic trends. In particular, trends that impact population change, namely, fertility (is it continuing to increase?), life expectancy (has the increase come to an end?), and migration by age and sex (are patterns changing?) not only for the nation and provinces and territories, but for regions within, to cities, towns and villages.

Why refer to the Population Projections Project for Canada's Census Areas? The Population Projections Project:

1) is based on open data (not withheld and manipulated by a small group of secretive people who need not explain how they change the numbers),2

2) as reliable as possible (Canada's Census of Population, arguably one of the best sources of demographic trends for any nation in the world, providing an estimate of error),3

3) uses as straight forward and clear a method as possible (clear instructions provided),

4) therefore, the projections can be replicated, not only to ensure that correct methods and data accompany "findings" rather than incorrect methods and data accompanying unsupported numbers, but to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the methods and data - making clear what the numbers represent,

5) and calculates several well defined population projection scenarios directly from the Censuses of Population rather than just one possible future scenario pretending to foretell the future4,

6) not only for the nation as a whole, and Canada's provinces and territories, but for the regions within to the cities, towns and villages across the country,

7) not only providing total population numbers but also projections of the number of people by age and sex,

8) using maps and charts to provide proportions and perspectives,

9) previous projections remain available and open for review rather than removing previous projections (making it impossible to check how close or far off they were); therefore, the projections calculated after each census release can be compared with the next census results,

10) provides a reference independent from the political direction of the current government with which to compare other population forecasts/projections, to help safeguard against the intrinsic risks and danger of monopoly that may result in unsupported / false numbers being used to guide public services.

These standards and unique qualities make the Population Projections Project a reliable reference with which to be aware of where we are and where we are heading on current demographic trends.

Now that the 2016 census counts, by age and sex, are available, comparisons between the projection scenarios calculated directly from the 1996 to 2011 censuses and the actual 2016 counts can be made; therefore, the original PPP page will remain showing the projection scenarios based on the 1996 to 2011 censuses rather than being revised with the addition of the 2016 counts.

Comparisons of the actual 2016 census counts with the 2016 projection scenarios continue to be added to the PPP census areas pages, as well as being posted on the Population Analysis Articles page.

In accordance with Statistics Canada's practice, rather than publishing only one possible scenario that pretends to foretell the future, a set of well defined scenarios are provided.

"Forecasting pretends to foretell the future, while the projection is an analytic tool which -- within the constraints of a tightly specified model -- enables the analyst to consider the implications of alternative scenarios."
"The issue of scenarios is important: in order to underline the analytic character of projections, it is our policy to publish always a set of possible projections, each corresponding to a well defined analytic scenario." (Ivan Fellegi, 1999)5

While the projections are based on the census counts, over the last 20 years, available from Statistics Canada, Statistics Canada did not examine, test, review, nor contribute to the Population Projections Project (PPP) in any way. The PPP adapts Statistics Canada's census counts available online (link below) then uses the cohort change ratios method and the child women ratios to calculate scenarios that are valid and can be replicated. Report any problems.

By referring to the Census of Population and making the methods clear, community members, (including people providing public services as well as elected representatives) have a resource with which to understand where we are and where we are heading on current demographic trends. You can participate in sharing this information with people in your area.

Endnotes and Sources:

1 This question, as well as the rest of the introduction, was adapted from "The United Nations Economic and Social Council, Statistical Commission and Economic Commission for Europe, Conference of European Statisticians, 47th plenary session, "Analytic Activities at Statistics Canada", submitted by Statistics Canada, prepared by Chief Statistician, Ivan Fellegi, 1999." www.wminfomatics.com/WP/ANALYTIC_ACTIVITIES_AT_STATISTICSCANADA.pdf

2 See the summary of the introduction to "Population Projections for Community Members" presented at the 2013 Congress organized by the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, Methods for Projections session hosted by the Canadian Population Society. Also watch the "Big Data and the Third Sector" workshop#2 (Edinburgh Scotland) video describing why the Population Projection Project was developed, abridged (11:43).

3 This project refers to Canada's census area's age/sex counts from Statistics Canada available on the Census of Canada website at http://www12.statcan.gc.ca.

4 For an example, compare the Superintendent of School's forecast of 0% change in the number of school aged children by 2027 with the "Vancouver Island Health Authority forecast of a 30% increase in total population" for the same area, to 2030 both providing only one future possibility - both pretending to foretell the future.

5 "Analytic Activities at Statistics Canada", page 5.

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