Lisa Gervais: Is census growth enough?
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | February 17, 2017|
StatsCan released its first set of numbers from the 2016 census last week.
They were for population and dwelling counts.
There are another six releases to come.
On May 3, we will learn more about our age and gender breakdown and the type of dwellings we live in; May 10 is agriculture; Aug. 2 is families, households, marital status and language; Sept. 13 is a big one with income; Oct. 25 is immigration and ethnocultural diversity as well as housing and Aboriginal peoples and Nov. 29 is education, labour, journey to work, language of work and mobility and migration.
It is only after that last release that we will get a full picture of where Haliburton County stands as of 2016 compared to 2011.
However, the Feb. 8 release does point to two obvious trends in the county.
We are growing quicker than the provincial and national averages.
Haliburton County’s growth was 5.8 per cent, compared to 4.6 per cent in Ontario and five per cent in Canada.
Secondly, the western half of the county is definitely leading this growth.
The population in Minden Hills grew by 7.7 per cent. Not far behind was Algonquin Highlands at 7.5 per cent.
Dysart et al was closer to the national average with 5.3 per cent growth while Highlands East is a concern, having grown just 2.9 per cent since 2011.
The second trend – which no doubt leads to the above growth figures – is that more people are living here full-time.
The number of homes and cottages being occupied year-round in the county has increased by 10.5 per cent.
That means an additional 810 dwellings are now being used as full-time homes. The number increased from 7,633 out of 21,365 being occupied year-round (34.6 per cent) to 8,443 out of 21,113 (38.8 per cent).
Not surprisingly, Minden Hills and Algonquin Highlands lead this trend too, with increases in dwellings occupied year-round of 14 per cent and 12 per cent compared to increases of eight per cent and nine per cent for Highlands East and Dysart et al.
One of the anomalies is that despite that 5.8 per cent growth, the number of dwellings has decreased 1.8 per cent county wide. It was worst in Algonquin Highlands.
We’re looking into this.
AH’s planner has spoken with StatsCan and they believe the drop in the number of total private dwellings was most likely because of the change in the municipal boundaries. They are looking at comparison maps from 2011 to 2016 as we write.
Reeve Carol Moffatt told us the 2011 population number has been revised and the land mass has changed so that makes her a bit curious about accuracy.
She’s not overly concerned since that count has historically gone up census over census and they know there were anomalies in the 2011 census.
She said they’ve had a lot of construction and have had numerous requests to write off taxes because of demolitions and new builds so that could be a contributor too.
So, while the overall growth seems cause for celebration, municipal leaders aren’t popping the champagne corks just yet.
And neither are we.
Warden Brent Devolin and Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey are legitimately concerned about how municipal government is going to pay for services, such as health care and public transportation, for these expanded full-time residents.
We worry that 5.8 per cent growth is far too low to sustain the local economy and infrastructure. Highlands East, after all, drew only an additional 94 net permanent residents between 2011 and 2016.
What will happen to these numbers once the baby boomers start dying out in 10 years’ time?
The news could be a whole lot worse, granted. And, we will be keenly looking at StatsCan’s other figures as they are released to get a more complete picture.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.