Mayor hopeful COVID-19 might make for more accurate census data

The population reflected in the census directly translates to the funding and social services available to Sun Peaks.
File photo

As with many aspects of life, COVID-19 has altered the way Canadians will fill out this year’s national census forms with a shift to an online format beginning on May 3.

Historically, you’d get a knock at your door to conduct the national census, and over the years other options for answering the census questions, such as postal forms, were introduced. This year the federal government is strongly urging people to fill out the census online, which Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality mayor Al Raine said may be very good news for the residents and municipality.

Raine said he believes the pandemic might contribute to a better census response rate since some of the locals who would usually be busy travelling will now be more likely to fill out their census forms.

“Generally, the census comes in May, which is a very slow period for residents remaining in Sun Peaks… often the end of the ski season comes and people run away for a month to recharge the batteries, and they miss the census period,” Raine said. “This year may be an exception. They may be forced [due to] COVID to stay in Sun Peaks.”

In addition, Raine said there may also be some seasonal workers who are staying in Sun Peaks longer due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In a normal winter season, Raine said there can be 700 to 800 seasonal employees, but he’s not sure how many people came here during the pandemic to work the 2021 ski season.

The large number of renters, who may not have properly received census forms in year’s past, will also have better access due to the online option.

Although it will take more than a year for the census results to become available, Raine is hopeful the results will show exponential population growth.

“We’ve had pretty phenomenal growth which I believe is the strongest growth of any municipality in the province… Two censuses ago in 2011 I think we were at 371 people. I think in the last census we were 616,” Raine said. “If we’re not over 900 in this census, I’d be very surprised. In fact, I’d say we should be close to 1,000.”

The last census, which was conducted in 2016, listed a total of 616 permanent residents in Sun Peaks. Raine said the data may not have properly reflected the actual size of the community, which cost the municipality to miss out on funding and services.

“It does affect us in a couple of ways. Obviously, there are grants that are directly tied to the number of residents,” Raine said. “Then it also impacts planning for other government agencies.”

Raine said one of the key issues he’s noticed is a lack of policing in the village, which he said he believes is due to the number listed on the previous census.

“The RCMP, they’re looking and saying, ‘Who is this municipality that needs more policing, we looked it up there are 600 people there.’ You know, that’s not the right number,” Raine said. “On a busy, busy weekend, we will have close to ten times our year round resident population here in Sun Peaks. So we have a policing issue that is related to a town of 10,000 people not 1,000 people.”

The mayor is urging all residents to complete the census, and reminded residents who only live here six months of the year they can still take part.

Raine said he believes the majority of locals are computer savvy and may find it easy to fill out the census online. According to Statistics Canada, any follow-up interviews that must be done in person will be socially distanced and staff will wear personal protective equipment. You can find more information and register for the census here.

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