Red Deer municipal census in 2019 was 101,002.
The same census in 2016 was 99,832 and in 2015, the number was 100,807.
In the four years since 2015 Red Deer has grown by 195 residents or less than 0.2 per cent.
Timberlands grew from 1,834 residents in 2015 to 3,038 residents in 2019 (1,204 residents) for a growth of about 66 per cent, so where did we lose all our residents? Let us look at the neighbourhoods north of the river.
Residents living north of the river in 2015 were 32,005, 31,228 in 2016 and finally 30,576 in 2019, for a total decline of 1,429 residents.
Let us break it down:
Kentwood: 4235 in 2019, 4,267 in 2016 and 4,299 in 2015;
Glendale: 4,284 in 2019, 4,288 in 2016 and 4,430 in 2019;
Normandeau: 3,275 in 2019, 3,530 in 2016 and 3,603 in 2015;
Pines: 1,725 in 2019, 1,718 in 2016 and 1,851 in 2015;
Highland Green: 3896 in 2019, 3,920 in 2016 and 4,065 in 2015;
Oriole Park: 5,200 in 2019, 5,244 in 2016 and 5,300 in 2015;
Riverside Meadows: 3423 in 2019, 3686 in 2016 and 3,810 in 2015;
Fairview: 733 in 2019, 710 in 2016 and 761 in 2015;
Johnstone: 3,805 in 2019, 3865 in 2016 and 3,886 in 2015;
That brings us to a total of 30,576 in 2019, 31,228 in 2016 and 32,005 in 2015
So it looks like we just relocated residents from north of the river to new subdivisions like Timberlands. In an age where we are trying to limit our footprint, Red Deer expanded our footprint faster than our population growth demanded. New neighbourhoods require infrastructure, schools, sewers, water, roads, transit etc. All these needs come with a cost.
More than 30,000 people live north of the river down from about 32,000, four years ago, but still a large community. I wrote about this very topic in 2016 and was given the brush off by many in city hall. One city councillor suggested that I have more children to populate the north side.
The issue was not taken seriously in 2016 and again in 2019.
I wrote that Lethbridge would overtake us and become the 3rd largest city in Alberta, and they did.
I dove deeper to see what was happening in local neighbourhoods and found that the north side of the river is being decimated and annexing or new neighbourhoods are fuelling our growth.
People keep telling me it is the provincial economy that is preventing growth. Lacombe grew by 7 per cent last year, Blackfalds has seen record growth, Penhold, Sylvan Lake and the county grew in the same province, so I discount that theory.
My thinking is perhaps more closer to home. The other communities invested in their residents. New recreation complexes that required per capita investments that dwarf Red Deer’s by huge margins, up to 100s of percents.
Red Deer has neglected the residents north of the river. For every dollar they spend north of the river they spend 20 south of the river. No high school north of the river with four current and two planned, south of the river.
If the city could just bring their culture from 1980 to 2020 then maybe we will not lose so many residents from north of the river. It is time to stop neglecting the residents living north of the river.
Start investing in substantial recreational facilities north of the river after years of building so many south of the river. Build the next aquatic centre north of the river, build the next school, especially high school north of the river.
For the whole city the powers that be need to wake up, and invest in it’s residents. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is time to wake up, what the powers that be have been doing has not worked, the census proves it, it is time to do things differently.
No I am not having more children, councillor.
Garfield Marks, Red Deer