2006 Census

Did you know? . . .  Town population is up 6.6 per cent - from 2,415 in 2001 to 2,575 in 2006 - beating the national average of 5.4 per cent.

Official government census gives Athabasca a boost

The figures are in and it has been confirmed: according to 2006 census information from Statistics Canada, the number of people living in the Town of Athabasca has increased since 2001.

Of course, this comes as little surprise to most residents, the signs of growth being apparent, most notably in the increasing demands for more housing. Still, it is interesting to note that according to Statistics Canada, the population in Athabasca increased from 2,415 in 2001, to 2,575 in 2006. That is an increase of 6.6 per cent, placing the percentage of increase in the Town of Athabasca ahead of the national average, which was 5.4 per cent.

In comparison, the 2001 Census shows that the Town of Athabasca grew by 4.4 per cent between 1995 and 2001. The national average in 2001 was 4 per cent, and Alberta grew at a rate of 10 per cent.

While encouraged by the 2006 StatsCan confirmation, Athabasca Mayor Richard Verhaeghe believes that growth for Athabasca was inevitable, given Alberta’s thriving economy. Alberta posted an overall increase in population of 10.6 per cent.

“The population increase for Athabasca was going to come, anyway,” Richard advises. “We’re only seeing the beginning.”

He notes, too, that the town has been taking steps to prepare for growth, even though some residents may not recognize the preparations as such.

“We jumped ahead about five years, building the Multiplex, the skateboard park, the spray park, even though some people question those decisions. And we did it without raising taxes.”

Richard is proud of what the community has achieved in the last few years, pointing to grassroots leadership as the foundation of achievement and progress in Athabasca. He also recognizes members of town council for their leadership roles.

“This council has come a long way in instilling community pride. I can’t think of any other small town I’d rather live in.”

Responsible development the new challenge

With continued growth a strong possibility for Athabasca, the mayor is concerned about how the community will handle it.

“The question is, can we grow responsibly?” he asks. “Council has to be pro responsible development and we have to consider the greater good of the entire community, not just the town.”

Larger population means more per capita funding

One benefit to the officially recognized StatsCan census figure is that when government funding is available on a per capita basis, a larger population base means more money. The good news for Athabasca is that per capita situations could translate into a 6.6 per cent funding increase.

However, councillors point out that the 2,575 figure will have increased quite a bit since the census was taken last year. Unfortunately, unless the town pays to have a new census done, it is bound by the 2,575 population figure until the next official government census.

Councillor blog site offers census overview, analysis

In March, Councillor Mike Gismondi provided additional details about Census 2006 at his councillor blog site. He also offered some analysis and personal opinion of the census information as it relates both to the Town of Athabasca and areas in the county.

“The trend for Athabasca is looking up, and looking good,” says Mike. “The County is holding steady. And, growth in year round residents at Island Lake and around Baptist Lake has been enormous.”

He notes that, while residents of these summer villages come to Athabasca for a variety of services, such as commercial services, schools, elder care, health services, recreation facilities, churches, doctors, dentists and more, the Town of Athabasca does not receive any significant tax support from the villages.

Mike also points out some interesting patterns across Rural Canada. According to Statistics Canada, “Canada's population in small towns and rural areas grew by 1.0 per cent between 2001 and 2006, after declining by 0.4 per cent in the previous intercensal period. In 2006, just under 20 per cent of Canadians (6.0 million people) were living in rural areas, that is, in areas located outside urban centres with a population of at least 10,000.”

“So, for a small town,” says Mike, “Athabasca is growing six times the national average.”

Athabasca is doing very well, considering the trend towards low or no growth in some remote rural areas.

“Athabasca is one of the few small towns bucking the rural trend of low or no growth north of Edmonton, and doing it nicely,” states Mike. “Most of our neighbours (some much closer to Edmonton) are losing people, not gaining as we have.”

There are a few factors he feels may have contributed to Athabasca’s growth in recent years.

“If I had to venture a guess, I would argue that the investment the Town Council has made over the last few years...in all areas...has really helped, as has the job security and recent boom growth at Athabasca University, and the steady work at the (Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries) pulp mill. But don't forget the efforts on the Riverfront and with Communities in Bloom to make the town look good and feel so well looked after.”

The complete text of Mike’s census blog can be found at http://mikegismondi.blogspot.com/

For details on Athabasca’s Statistics Canada census figures, go to http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census06/data/profiles/community/Details/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=4813048&Geo2=PR&Code2=48&Data=Count&SearchText=athabasca&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=48&B1=All&Custom

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