Sobolewski: The Census Got it Wrong

Mayor of Bonnyville says he doesn’t agree with the Federal Census numbers for the community

“Since about 2007, Stats Canada hasn’t got it right,” Bonnyville’s Mayor, Gene Sobolewski says there’s been a history of the Federal Government inaccurately reporting the town’s population. “For example, in 2011 they said we had 5,800 people, we actually had 6,800-7,000.”

The Federal Government released its census, which displayed that Bonnyville had the larger drop in population, in all of Canada for towns with a population of 5,000 or over. “I look at the census and believe there’s probably a decline, but I don’t think we flatted.,” the Mayor says just from the amount of building and development permits and business licenses coming across Council’s table. “There’s not apparent vacancies in apartments. So, I look at it and I shrug. Do I believe that data, no,” he doesn’t know how the town could be dropping in population by the numbers the Feds found.

The census reported the town dropped in size by 12.9 percent since 2011. The report displayed Bonnyville’s population at 6,216 in 2014 and dropping to 5,417. “When I look at that and I see they saw we have a population of 5,000 people… we haven’t had a population of 5,000, since mid-90’s.”

As the mayor explains there are some reporting errors that could account for the discrepancies between the Town’s numbers and the Federal Government’s, “they rely on short forms and long forms. I’m wondering if all the population is filling them out.” Bonnyville is known to have quite a few single family dwelling that rent out per room, or have boarders in their basement. The Mayor believe some of this population is getting missed. “I don’t know, but it looks like an extrapolated data.”

“They haven’t been right since about 2004, the Town has since done our own census,” the mayor explains that when the Town did its own census they were able to include the ‘Shadow Population’ (persons living in work camps or hotels). “Nor were we able to accurately count how many people had boarders. We couldn’t capture those and we still came in over 1,000 over the what the census reported.”

“The numbers are so far skewed, they’re not even believable,” states Mayor Sobolewski. Population can affect a number of elements; including funding, policing costs, grant opportunities, health care, education and seniors’ support. It is vital for Bonnyville to be able to display accurate numbers. Mayor Sobolewski says in the past the Federal Government has accepted the Town’s own Census. There is one catch, the Town will have to pay for the census on its own. The Town will discuss whether it should embark in its own census at Tuesday’s, February 14th, Council Meeting.