Town of Rimbey Mayor Rick Pankiw and Town of Eckville Mayor Colleen Ebden are skeptical of Statistics Canada census numbers that show their communities lost population. (Advocate file photo)

Town of Rimbey Mayor Rick Pankiw and Town of Eckville Mayor Colleen Ebden are skeptical of Statistics Canada census numbers that show their communities lost population. (Advocate file photo)

Rimbey and Eckville mayors skeptical of federal census tallies

StatsCan says Rimbey and Eckville among a number of central Alberta communities to lose people

Statistics Canada’s head counters say Eckville’s population fell almost 10 per cent from 2016 to 2021.

No way, says Mayor Colleen Ebden.

“We just don’t agree with it,” said Ebden, adding the town does not believe the 2016 was much better at tallying the true population.

“Houses are selling and people are buying. Honestly, I really believe if we did a census we would be the same as what we were.

“We still have people coming in even though some have moved out. Nothing major has changed.”

StatsCan released its census information last week and by its count Eckville’s population shrank 9.9 per cent to 1,014 residents in 2021 from 1,125 in 2016, when the previous federal census was undertaken.

Ebden questions whether older residents are all getting counted. Many would not have gone online to fill out the census questions and others live in care homes or even in the local hotel. Census workers are often not from the communities where they are counting, which possibly increases the chance of missing people, especially if they are not at home when the worker came calling.

“If we do our own census we pretty much know who lives where and how many people live there,” he said.

The latest statistics pose no risk to community pride, she says. “No, because we know who lives here.”

Eckville has a big year in store. It is celebrating its centennial, which actually occurred last year but the decision was made to delay festivities because of the pandemic.

The celebration kicked off last Nov. 3 with fireworks and will continue all year. “We need to think positive stuff, not the gloom and doom stuff.”

In Rimbey, Mayor Rick Pankiw is also skeptical of StatsCan’s numbers. Even the higher population numbers posted on the Alberta government’s regional dashboard site are likely on the low side, he believes.

The regional dashboard says Rimbey’s 2021 population was 2,663, down slightly from 2,668 a year before. Over five years, the increase was 1.56 per cent, says the dashboard.

However, StatsCan says the town’s population dropped to 2,470 last year, down nearly four per cent from 2,567 in 2016.

Pankiw said he did not want to comment too much about the numbers until council has an opportunity to discuss it, which is happening at its Feb. 28 meeting.

Based on what he sees in town, he is not buying either set of numbers.

“Absolutely not. I believe we’re growing.”

A 3.8 per cent population drop as big as StatsCan suggests would be very noticeable, he said. “In a small community, that’s a huge difference.”

The seniors lodge in town has added rooms and new businesses have opened up, increasing the number of jobs in town.

Eckville and Rimbey are not the only communities which have lost population according to StatsCan.

Bentley’s population dropped 3.3 per cent to 1,042 from 1,078, Sundre is down 2.1 per cent to 2,672 from 2,729, Castor’s population fell 13.3 per cent to 803 from 929 and Coronation’s numbers were down 7.7 per cent to 868 from 940.



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