Published: February 15, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
I have a friend in the municipal planning and lobby sector that always gets a little bit giddy around Census time. She spends her days studying community planning models and data and her nights strategizing at how best to lobby federal and provincial partners with her message. Her excitement was contagious last week when the first set of Census data was released for 2016.
For those who may need a reminder a national census is conducted every five years by Statistics Canada in an effort to inform health care, education, transportation and other social service programs on the country’s demographic and statistical data. Want to know how many people over the age of 40 live in eastern Canada or the median income of a 20 something in Vancouver? Want to know if more people are living in the city of Guelph or the City of Cambridge? You can google.com that but it’s going to take you to the Census and according to the 2016 survey results the answer is Guelph.
In 2006 a Conservative government did away with the long-form census and made participation voluntary which means many chose not to fill it out. Restoring the long-form was a liberal party election promise in 2015 exciting statisticians everywhere.
Last week Statistics Canada released population and dwelling data from the first census since re-instating the long-form and the results basically proved what district residents have been saying for quite some time. The end of the road is getting smaller.
In five year’s Red Lake lost 563 people making up a 12 per cent decline. Not shocking considering the state of the local economy and the continued layoffs of large and small employers. Or is it?
Historic census data shows that 20 years ago our population was recorded as 4,778. Five years later almost the same number of residents as this past census cycle packed up and moved on. That was notably the years of the Dickenson Mine strike. The next two cycles saw growth until last year when our population dropped again.
Wandering the streets this week I heard many reasons and/or complaints as to why our population has declined. Lay-offs at the largest employer in town took number one with complaints about fly-in/flyout workers also being top of mind. Yet in these discussions not one person brought up the cost of living in the north ie: rents, grocery bills, hydro. Nor were limitations in health care programing for an aging population spoken of. What about the fact that my generation is chosing to have children later and limiting our efforts to “one, two if the first one is really quiet and sleeps through the night.”
I asked my data-loving friend this week what was it about the census that got her all hot and bothered. She said it’s a collection of data about where we live, how we live and how we identify our relationships. “It paints both a moment in time, and when the data is done right, over time.”
Our painting is telling us a story but it is by no means finished. It is up to the community to address the factors we believe are driving our residents away. In five years we will have another coat of paint.