Originally published in the Whitecourt Star
Whitecourt and Woodlands County are both growing, while Mayerthorpe got a bit smaller, according to the most recent census data released Feb. 8.
Whitecourt’s population increased to 10,204 from 9,605 in 2011, when the last census was released — an increase of 6.2 per cent.
However, this is a slight decrease from the municipal census of 2013, which put the town’s population at 10,574, resulting in 370 more people than the 2016 federal survey.
Mayor Maryann Chichak attributed this discrepancy to differing methodologies in gathering census data.
“More visits are done to households to ensure that they’re counted in the municipal census,” she said.
“We did online. We did door-to-door. We’d go back two, three, four times to ensure we got an answer. Unfortunately, with a federal census, they made two or three attempts and if they don’t have a response back, then the houses aren’t counted,” she said.
Chichak estimated that there’s a five per cent variance between municipal and federal numbers.
“When you compare apples to apples, it was nice to see that continued steady growth from the last federal one,” she said.
Mayor pleased with Woodlands’ “healthy” growth
Woodlands County Mayor Jim Rennie was thrilled that the census showed his municipality’s population increase to 4,574 from 4,306, a growth of 10.4 per cent.
“The Edmonton Journal called themselves the fastest growing city in Canada and their percentage wasn’t a lot higher than ours,” he said.
According to the census, Edmonton grew by 14.8 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
The provincial average for Alberta is 11.6 per cent, making it the fastest growing province. The national average is five per cent.
“We’re a community that’s lucky to be blessed with growth,” said Rennie, calling the population increase “healthy” and “somewhat balanced.”
Mayerthorpe got smaller
But not all towns in Alberta grew from one census to the other.
Mayerthorpe’s population shrank by 5.6 per cent to 1,320, losing 78 people, since the federal census in 2011.
Lac Ste. Anne County, where Mayerthorpe is located, increased its population 6.2 per cent to 10,899 from 10,260 in the same timeframe.
“The population figures are disappointing and they’re not really unexpected,” Mayerthorpe Mayor Kate Patrick said, citing the economic downturn in the oilpatch as a factor in the decrease.
“We have a lot of oil and gas industry workers who lost their jobs in the last year.”
Patrick said that if the census was taken today, she believes the results would be different.
This is why she wants council to take a municipal census, which may not happen until 2018.