Sustainable population growth will require renewed investments in infrastructure and cities. This includes all kinds of infrastructure, such as affordable housing, digital infrastructure, and urban infrastructure like public transit.
Indicators in this section assess how we will meet the needs of a growing population through infrastructure and urban development.
The report provides greater analysis on the state of infrastructure in Canada and highlights issues that have been exacerbated as a result of Covid-19. It emphasizes the need to address aging infrastructure and to establish the right conditions for the healthy and sustainable growth of cities.
Infrastructure investment levels have stagnated at around 4% of GDP in recent years. Higher levels of investment are needed in future years. Experts have projected that more than 5% of GDP should be spent on infrastructure to make up for the infrastructure deficit. More recent federal investments and planning, including permanent funding for transit, could help put this indicator on track in the future.
Investment in infrastructure represented 3.9% of GDP in 2019.
Increase the rate of infrastructure investment to close infrastructure gap.
Infrastructure includes everything from hospitals, to roads, and bridges; and is essential to supporting healthy and sustainable long-term population growth. Infrastructure enhances quality of life through systems of transportation, water, communication, and more, which are vital to Canada’s economy. It is also needed to build resilience in the face of climate change. Canada must make up for many decades of underinvestment resulting in our infrastructure deficit. All orders of government have a role in infrastructure in Canada.
Canada has declined in its ranking in recent years. While it is below the target compared to other countries, Canada still ranks among the top quartile of countries assessed in this indicator.
Canada ranked 26th out of 141 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index Infrastructure pillar in 2019.
Top 10 in overall infrastructure score in the Global Competitiveness Index.
This pillar in the index focuses on the state of utilities and transportation systems in comparison to other countries. The state of Canada’s infrastructure impacts our current quality of life, resiliency and economic well-being. Canada is making progress in assessing infrastructure needs, but more predictable, sustainable and strategic investments in physical as well as social, economic and digital infrastructure are still needed. Canada now has important new data to inform planning through the recent introduction of the Core Public Infrastructure Survey.
Significant progress is needed to ensure all households in Canada have access to adequate, affordable housing – particularly in urban parts of Canada. There has been minimal improvement in the availability of affordable housing in Canada’s urban areas since 2012. Recent housing investments through the National Housing Strategy could have an impact, as can the new Rapid Housing Initiative and federal commitment to end chronic homelessness.
Incidence of core housing need in urban areas in Canada was 12.4% in 2018.
Meet CMHC target of affordable housing for everyone by 2030.
Affordable housing is needed to support the well-being of Canadians, to accommodate a growing population, and to achieve the target of ending chronic homelessness. Housing prices and debt related to housing are high in Canada. This has a detrimental impact on affordability and poses broader economic risks. As a result, people with low and moderate incomes, newcomers, and students have found it difficult to find suitable, affordable housing. A lack of affordable housing compounds the effects of income inequality.
There has been a general increase in broadband availability with 50/10 Mbps speeds, though there are disparities in access across the country based on location and household income. Nonetheless, recent funding announcements put the country potentially on track to achieve 98% of households by 2026.
85.7% of Canadian households had access to 50/10 Mbps speeds in 2018.
Meet the federal government objective of 98% of Canadian households by 2026 and 100% by 2030.
Covid-19 has highlighted the need for affordable access to the internet for work, school and to maintain social and family connections. 50/10 speeds present a current basic quality standard. It is important to note that for this indicator "access" means "available to purchase." Therefore, while many households are in regions where there is “access,” they are unable to connect due to affordability or other reasons. Access is also more limited in rural and First Nations communities.
Fibre connections can reach speeds of one Gigabit per second, which is faster than general broadband availability. Canada is significantly behind other comparable countries and falls well below the OECD average.
Canada ranked 27th out of 37 OECD countries in 2019.
17.18% of all broadband internet connections in Canada (including to homes and businesses) were classified as high-speed fibre connections in 2019.
Threshold: OECD average was 28.03% in 2019.
Canadians require reliable and high speed access, such as fibre connections, for work, quality health and education services. While the percentage of fibre connections in Canada is low, according to CRTC data, more households (44.7%) have access to existing fibre infrastructure. This means that fibre is available to purchase, though there can be affordability and other barriers to connecting. Canada needs to meet and exceed its broadband targets to pave the way for future growth.
Despite recent increases in density, urban areas in Canada over 250,000 population are less dense on average (1,196 inhabitants per square kilometer), than in the OECD overall (1,374 per square kilometer). In 2018, density in Canadian cities ranged from 72 inhabitants per square-kilometre in Halifax, to 2,097 inhabitants per square-kilometre in Montreal.
The average population density of the core areas of Canadian cities with population of more than 250,000 (16 cities) was 1,196 inhabitants per square-kilometre in 2018.
Threshold: The OECD average for population density in core areas was 1,374 inhabitants per square kilometre in 2018.
When planned well, density can support Canada’s objective of a more sustainable economy, by contributing to reduced emissions, shorter commute times, and vibrant communities. The alternative is a growing Canada characterized by gridlock, sprawl, and detrimental environmental impacts. In small and medium-sized cities it means stronger local economies and improved access to services and supports. The ability of Canadian cities to effectively manage growth is impacted by their fiscal capacity. As municipal responsibilities have increased, governments have not seen proportional levels of revenue growth.
There are higher levels of income inequality in Canada’s most populous cities compared to the rest of Canada, as measured by the Gini coefficient. In 2015, Canada’s overall Gini coefficient was 0.32. Inequality was higher in Toronto (0.41), Montreal (0.35) and Vancouver (0.41).
The average Gini coefficient among Canada’s three most populous metropolitan areas was 0.39 in 2015.
Close the inequality gap between Canada’s cities and the country overall.
High levels of income inequality challenge the sustainable and healthy growth of our largest cities and contributes to negative outcomes such as social fragmentation, longer commute times, and inability to sustain a diverse workforce in urban economies.