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The CN tower is reflected in a high rise building behind a construction crane in downtown Toronto on Saturday, February 4, 2012. The condo explosion is changing the shape and culture of Canada's cities.

Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press

While he grew up in Barrie, Matin Mazid and his wife were eager to move closer to Toronto as soon as they could.

Their arrival in Markham in 2008 is in line with the results of Canada's most recent census, released Wednesday. The population data reveals a rise in the populations of northern suburbs near Toronto, with people like Mr. Mazid opting for a short commute to the city rather than travelling from farther afield.

"I keep telling people it was the smartest thing I did," said Mr. Mazid, who works in information technology as a senior programmer for a bank downtown.

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When he purchased his starter townhome in northeast Markham, he traded a daily drive to work from Barrie for a 40-minute train trip.

Barrie, which is more than an hour's drive from downtown Toronto, was once a leader in population growth. From 1996 to 2001, the growth rate was 25.1 per cent. But it has been steadily declining since, falling to 5.6 per cent between 2006 and 2011 – slightly below the national average of 5.9 per cent.

While Toronto's population grew by 4.5 per cent during the same period, the city's suburbs are leading the pack: In Markham, the population growth rate was 15.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

Mr. Mazid, now 40, says a major part of his decision revolved around getting rid of a daily commute by car. For him, it was more about quality of daily travel than rising fuel costs.

"It's hot in the summer and miserable," he said. "And in the winter, it's miserable and cold and also dangerous."

Now, he takes GO Transit every day. He said he can work or relax while he's on the train, and he's closer to downtown entertainment.

As well, Mr. Mazid said he was drawn to having an address nearer to Toronto because he felt it improved his employment prospects. Before he landed his most recent job, he was working closer to Mississauga. When he went on job interviews, he said he'd get asked about travel hindering his time in the office.

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After moving from Bangladesh decades ago, his parents settled in Barrie because they already had relatives there. Mr. Mazid said his parents weren't thrilled when he decided to move, but they've come around.

"It's not too far away," he said.

With a report from Tamara Baluja

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