Today is the first day Statistics Canada releases information from last year’s Census. That means lots of stories about how many people live here, and jokes about Hannibal Lecter eating the liver of a census taker. Let’s get one of those out of the way right away.
The big news for Edmonton is that we remain one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities. Between 2011 and 2016, the city itself grew to 932, 546 people. Over that five-year census gap, we saw about 65 people moving to Edmonton every day. (A belated welcome to you all!)
When you look at the larger Edmonton area, which includes our suburb cities and the Capital Region, we’ve got more than 1.3-million people living in Edmonton or within about a half-hour drive the city. This, too, is one of Canada’s fastest-growing areas. Around another 20 people a day who might not live in the city but likely find themselves here for any number of reasons on a regular basis (that’s an important note for government funding, which we’ll get to in a moment).
Edmonton’s metropolitan population increased from around 1.1-million people in 2011 to 1.3-million last year. Considering we may have actually lost a few people after the price of oil dropped in 2015, this means Alberta is still seen as a land of opportunity. Calgary’s metro area, for example, also saw big gains in population, growing by nearly 180-thousand people between 2011 and 2016. Both Edmonton and Calgary had around 14% population growth during the five-year census gap.
There are also going to need to be some deeper dives on how the City of Edmonton conducts its own census. It crunched the numbers last year but found only 899,447 people living here. That’s a difference of more than 30-thousand people from the numbers we’re seeing today, and both surveys were done at fairly similar times. (Then again, maybe this kind of stuff always happens.)
At least one story last year noted that there were fewer people filling out the City census than hoped. Whatever the reason, you know the City will use the newer, larger numbers to argue for money from the federal and provincial governments. Although that could call into question bigger numbers it tries to use from its own census between the federal counts.
That’s one of the important reasons Edmonton, as a city and municipality, needs these numbers. Money from the federal government (and provincial too) for any number of programs can be tied to how many people live somewhere – more people can mean more funding. One example is money provided to the provinces for healthcare, through the Canada Health Transfer.
This is also becoming increasingly important around infrastructure and public transit dollars, and population jumps can give municipalities support for the case they need more funding. When the City’s census came out last year, Mayor Don Iveson put the value at about $300 per person living here.
This year, the numbers have an extra benefit here. The Alberta government is examining boundaries for provincial constituencies ahead of the next provincial election. Some of the 2016 population increases and shifts could mean changes to how many MLAs we might elect in particular areas or regions, and where one riding meets another. This will most likely have impact on (more) suburban areas of Edmonton and Calgary, as those places see a lot of population change as the cities grow out.
If you have thoughts on provincial ridings and representation, and how the new census numbers could inform those decisions, you can still get in a submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission (deadline is February 17).