U-Haul names North Bay Canada’s top growth city for second consecutive year

Signpost for North Bay Photo by Lester Balajadia/Shutterstock

Considering a move? North Bay may be your best bet. For the second year in a row, the city of 51,000 nabbed Canada’s top spot for population growth on rental company U-Haul’s Growth Index report.

The report looks at how many U-Haul trucks entered a city or province in a calendar year and compares it to how many left, taking the net gain. It then lists the top 25 cities in Canada and ranks each province in terms of population growth. This year’s report compiled data from over 2 million one-way U-Haul truck transactions.

According to the report, people moving to North Bay rose by 40 per cent compared to last year, while departures from the city also rose, sitting at 27 per cent. Overall, the report states that U-Haul customers accounted for 59.2 per cent of North Bay’s incoming traffic in 2021.

Two other Ontario cities followed closely behind North Bay, Belleville and Greater Sudbury. “At the start of the pandemic, we saw a mass exodus from Ontario to other provinces, particularly the Maritimes,” said Jake Spelic, U-Haul area district vice president of Eastern Canada, in the report. “People were in search of cheaper housing as they worked from home. As time has passed and things are shifting closer to normal, we are starting to see that trend reverse. Ontario is still the economic centre of Canada and offers a high quality of living, thousands of job opportunities, and attractive salaries.”

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald attributes his city’s population growth to a number of factors. “I think the secret’s out,” he said. “We started a ‘Move Up’ campaign targeting the GTA about three years ago, and I think people are starting to recognize that the city of North Bay is only a three-hour drive to Toronto. Plus, they’re starting to discover all the amenities and lifestyle that we offer, including being named one of the top 20 places in Canada to invest, as well as factors like our beaches, trails, arts and culture, restaurants, breweries, affordable housing, and space.”

Since McDonald was elected mayor in 2010, he’s prioritized economic development and population growth, balancing these commitments with maintaining the city’s outdoor spaces. The result has been a growth in job opportunities and a community with an abundance of recreational activities.

Plus, McDonald added, North Bay has one of the strongest internet connections in the country. “Last year, we were considered as having the fastest mobile network in Canada. Part of it is being driven because we have NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) here. So, our internet infrastructure is extremely strong.”

Beyond listing Canada’s top 25 growth cities, the U-Haul report also looked at migration trends among provinces. In 2021, Alberta took the top spot with U-Haul customers accounting for 50.8 per cent of Alberta’s traffic inflow. Compared to last year, the province saw a 33 per cent increase in one-way U-Haul arrivals and a 29 per cent increase in departures.

“There are initiatives in Alberta that are creating more job opportunities and attracting residents,” said Naga Chennamsetty, U-Haul area district vice president of Western Canada, in the report. “In the last year, we have seen a lot of movement into Alberta. More communities are developing in and around major cities. Not only that, but the Canadian Rockies are so accessible to residents here, and they offer a variety of recreational activities.”

Calgary ranked as Alberta’s top migration city, sitting fifth on the list. Other Alberta cities to make the top 25 included Red Deer-Lacombe (8), Medicine Hat-Redcliff (15), and Airdrie (24).

Alberta was followed by British Columbia and Ontario, respectively.

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