Locals weigh in on data that shows Greater Victoria has lowest birthrate in Canada

This is part one of CTV News Vancouver Island's three-part series, Shifting Focus: Families, Fertility and the Future.

Hundreds of thousands of babies are born in Canada every year – but out of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, Greater Victoria reports the fewest. In fact, many women aren’t having children at all.

"I just realized it wasn’t something that I wanted enough that I think would make me a good parent," said Maija McKenzie of her decision not to have kids.

"If we had one or two children, we would owe them more space," she added. "We would owe them childcare eventually, as we both work. And I just don’t think it would be very financially feasible if we want to maintain the lifestyle that we have."

The administrator is far from alone.

Statistics Canada data shows that birthrates have been falling in Canada since 2008. Nationally, the most recent data from 2021 shows women are having an average of 1.4 children.

In B.C.’s capital region, the total fertility rate is at a historic low of 0.95 – or fewer than one child per woman.

"Victoria is remarkable," said Don Kerr, a demographer at Kings College. "Victoria has the lowest proportion of its population under the age of five, across 41 CMAs (census metropolitan area). And Nanaimo’s not far behind."

Many factors play into a woman's decision not to have children, says Victoria resident Joanna Witham.

"It looks different having kids nowadays," she said.

Witham says she savors her tranquil morning routines and the flexibility that a child-free life has afforded her. But they’re not the only factors behind her choice.

She’s never envisioned having her own kids, and she’s concerned about global issues like climate change.

"If you live in a city like Victoria or this area, I think people are a lot more conscious," she said. "There are a lot of people in this world and we’ve clearly affected what’s going on with it."

A South Island group working to bolster the region’s economic and social prosperity says declining birth rates are a reality that's under watch, with economic effects.

"You say, 'OK well how do we then sustain our society and sustain our tax base and keep our pension funds?" said Dallas Gislason with South Island Prosperity Partnership. "And immigration is absolutely key to that."

With lower birth rates, Kerr says our population continues to age.

"Most demographers suggest that at a national level, we’ll probably inevitably see over the next 15 years or so, one-in-four Canadians over the age of 65," he said.

For McKenzie and Witham, they’re grateful their decision to not have kids has largely come with the respect of others.

"Having children is probably one of the biggest decisions you could make with your life," says McKenzie.