Rural shrinkage

A bit of idle research that started out with the relative sizes of Alberta and Texas (Texas is bigger) somehow led to a list of Alberta municipalities by population. It shows 2011 and 2016 federal census figures and the percentage change. While the bigger centres grew and their bedroom communities along with them, many smaller towns actually lost population in that five-year period. Slave Lake was one of those. According to Statistics Canada, it lost about 400 people and is officially at 6,155 – until the 2021 census and who knows what that will show. The drop from 2011 to 2016 was 5.4 per cent, by the way. Airdrie grew by 42 per cent in the same period, the second fastest in the province (to Cochrane).

In our area, Athabasca was down by 4.9 per cent. High Prairie held pretty steady, with only a .7 per cent drop (17 people). Westlock was up 3.2 per cent. Some place called Westlake jumped 265 per cent, but we’re not counting it because it’s part of Clairmont, which is itself a suburb of Grande Prairie.

And the population loss leader for that period? LaCrete, at 25.6 per cent.

When it comes to rural municipalities, the scenario is similar. Most grew between the 2011 and 2016 census years and a few shrank. Lesser Slave River fell 4.3 per cent, from 2,929 to 2,803. Others took a slightly bigger hit – Pincher Creek County (6.1 per cent) Westlock County (5.5 per cent) are two of those. Our neighbour to the west, Big Lakes County, lost 4.1 per cent of its population.

Going strongly in the other direction were two counties not associated with large urban centres. The M.D. of Bonnyville led all RMs with 21.3 per cent population gain. Hot on its heels was the M.D. of Peace (west of Peace River), with a 20.8 per cent gain.

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