The 2016 census numbers are out for population. Prince George has seen a reversal from the previous census, in which the population declined. This time, the city’s population grew between 2011 and 2016 to 74,000. That’s a hike of 2.8%. For Mayor Lyn Hall, that’s a reason to smile.
“The 2.8 percent increase is a 2,000-resident increase,” says Mayor Hall. “So when it comes to things like trying to secure investment, it’s important. It shows that we are economically stable. It follows the pattern that we heard from the Conference Board of Canada around how strong our economy is.”
There has been a concerted effort to attract people to the City, even moving economic development in-house.
“A big role for us within Economic Development over the past several years has been to focus on population retention and growth,” says Melissa Barcellos, Economic Development Officer for the City. “The Move Up Prince George campaign is the main tool that we use for that. Seeing an increase in population helps us to know that we’re doing is working.
These numbers are about half the provincial increase, and the numbers in communities around the province have seen some significant increases.
Community: 2011 2016 Change:
BC: 4,400,057 4,648,055 +5.6%
Prince George: 71,974 74,003 +2.8%
Kamloops: 85,678 90,280 +5.4%
Nanaimo: 83,810 90,504 +8.0%
Kelowna: 117,312 127,380 +8.6%
It means, while we saw growth, there’s work to be done.
“We still do have work to do, yes. We want to continue to see growth, to continue to attract people to Prince George. It’s a great place to live and we’ve been doing a lot to tell that story,” says Barcellos. “One of the constraints that local business owners have relayed to us over the years has been that one of their challenges is attracted skilled people to fill positions that they available. They try to fill them locally and they can’t so they have to go out an recruit.”
But the numbers around the region are not as rosy.
Regional: 2011 2016 Change
Mackenzie: 3,507 3,714 +5.9%
Quesnel: 10,007 9,879 -1.3%
Vanderhoof: 4,480 4,439 -0.9%
Burns Lake: 2,029 1,779 -12.3%
McBride: 586 616 +5.1%
Valemount: 1,020 1,021 +0.1%
It’s a saddening fact for Mayor Hall.
“I’ve often said, as have other mayors and councils over the year, as Prince George goes, so goes the North and vice versa. We have a strong economic engine throughout the northern part of the province. Yeah, I am disappointed to see some of the decreases around communities that are close to us. We’d like, obviously, to see every community have an increase in population in the North.”
More census information will be released on May 3rd, looking at the different types of dwellings.