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More people are leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller pastures as pandemic accelerates urban exodus

The urban exodus from Canada accelerated in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands of people leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller cities or rural areas, official data showed on Thursday.

More than 64,000 people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, up 14% from the previous 12-month period, according to population estimates from Statistics Canada , and another 6,600 have left the province.

Montreal, the second largest city in Canada, lost nearly 40,000 inhabitants to other regions of Quebec, up 60% from the year, and 3,600 more left the province.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote working have prompted tens of thousands of Canadians to flee expensive large cities in search of more space and cheaper real estate in small centers, rural villages and coastal regions.

This helped spur a nationwide housing boom, with prices rising more sharply in suburbs and small towns than in urban centers, fueling concerns about the price of premises and putting pressure on city services.

A person wears a face mask in Montreal on Thursday. Montreal, the second largest city in Canada, lost nearly 40,000 inhabitants to other regions of Quebec, up 60% from the year, and 3,600 more left the province. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)

Nationally, a typical home in Canada now costs $ 780,400, an increase of 34%, or almost $ 200,000, since March 2020.

Atlantic Canada is doing well in the exodus. Halifax added more than 6,000 people in the year through June 30, 2021, the vast majority coming from out of province.

Rural Quebec has grown, adding more than 25,000 people from the urban centers of the predominantly French-speaking province.

Cities in the region around Toronto called the Golden Horseshoe are also experiencing strong influxes. Oshawa added 8,000 as residents flocked from Toronto, and Hamilton and St. Catharines gained nearly 5,000.

Immigration made up for some of Toronto’s population losses.