I’m a geek, as you already know from posts like this, and I also like numbers and spreadsheets, as you know from posts like this. 🙂

So of course I perked up when I saw this tweet from the CivicInfo feed at @BCHeadlines.

BC Stats are interesting because they fill in the 5 year gap between Canadian census years. There are some differences in how they count (more on that below) but timely information is important for decision makers.

Of course, I had to see how Port Alberni was doing in the latest numbers, and the answer is since around 2014, we’re growing too!

Just the City of Port Alberni:

Port Alberni numbers in the blue box

The Alberni Valley

(City and Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake, Beaufort areas)

Port Alberni numbers in the blue box

Comparing to Canada Census

For comparison, we can look at the last Canada Census in 2016 and the difference between 2011 and 2016. Here are those numbers, for the City (“CY”) and Valley (Census Agglomeration).

The difference in population is very small over the 5 years, just 65 fewer people in the City but 353 fewer in the outer regions.

Previous Flat Growth

Many have assumed that Port Alberni has been declining drastically in population over the past many decades but the numbers actually show that since the last large mill closures in the 1990s, we’ve ebbed and flowed and maintained a very flat number with a drop of just 70 and 187 people (0.4% and 0.7%) in the City and Valley respectively between 2001 and 2016.

Here are the Populations in previous Canada Census years available online.

  • Year – City – Valley
  • 1991 – 18,523 – NA
  • 1996 – 18,782 – 26,893
  • 2001 – 17,748 – 25,299
  • 2006 – 17,548 – 25,343
  • 2011 – 17,743 – 25,465
  • 2016 – 17,678 – 25,112

Difference from 2016 could be the largest in decades.

As there is no census for only BC, BCStats uses other methods to come to its numbers and estimates. If you look at the differences in the BC and Canada Census numbers you’ll notice BCStats tends to project slightly larger numbers than the Canada Census counts, but the percentages are similar.

With our current 2019 population estimated at 18,751 and 26,579 for the City and Valley respectively by BCStats, that would represent a 1073 person (6%) and 1467 person (5.8%) increase over the 2016 Canadian census even if those numbers only held steady by the 2021 Census.

However, given the traditionally high-bias of BC Stats, and the impacts of the forestry strike this year, we shouldn’t expect an increase that dramatic in next year’s Census.

We can probably expect something closer to 2% for each area, but if things continue as they are, the stage does seem to be set for the 2021 Census to show one of the largest increases in Port Alberni’s official population in many decades and a return to a population we haven’t seen since the 1990s.

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