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Too soon to draw conclusions from Census data, says Selkirk researcher

Population shifts don’t necessarily indicate community well-being
Most areas of the Boundary saw population increases in the past five years, according to the latest data from the 2021 census. (File photo)

New census data shows large population shifts across the Kootenay Boundary in the last five years, but the numbers don’t necessarily paint a clear picture, according to a Selkirk College researcher.

Not yet, anyway.

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Statistics Canada on Wednesday, Feb. 9, released 2021 Census data showing regional population growth compared against the 2016 census. Those numbers show the West Boundary and Christina Lake areas grew by nearly 40 and 21 per cent — a wide spread over the nearly eight per cent bump over B.C. as a whole.

The City of Grand Forks meanwhile grew by 1.6 per cent, rising from just over 4,000 people in 2016 to a little over 4,100 as of 2021. Rural Grand Forks’ Area D registered zero per cent growth.

Greenwood grew a little over 5.5 per cent in the same period, climbing from around 650 to just over 700.

Midway added two people to its rolls, coming out at just over 650 residents for a growth of just over zero per cent.

Rock Creek added four people, growing by around two per cent to hit 185. Beaverdell shrunk by around 20 per cent, dropping from around 150 to around 120.

At the same time, the West Boundary’s Area E swelled by nearly 1,000 people, overwhelmingly in Big White.

Jayme Jones of Selkirk Innovates (SI), a think tank that supports a wide array of research initiatives, was still crunching the data when she spoke to The Gazette on Thursday. Speaking generally, Jones said the 2021 Census hasn’t shown any startling revelations in the Columbia-Boundary region, which grew by around seven per cent.

Population growth doesn’t necessarily show progress, any more than population loss necessarily shows a setback, she said. SI, formerly the Rural Development Institute, considers over 50 “indicators of well-being” as it puts together its annual State of the Basin report.

“People come to a region for multiple factors: housing, jobs, other opportunities — the list can go on. But to pinpoint exactly why populations changed more in any one community would take a lot more research,” Jones said.

Raw numbers are easily skewed in small population centres like Beaverdell, she continued, adding for context that, “What makes a lot of small towns great in this region is that they’re small.”

The fastest growing municipalities in the Columbia-Boundary region were Radium Hot Springs and Slocan, Jones said.



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