Lacombe moving up the population ranks

Lacombe is Alberta’s smallest city no more.

Lacombe is Alberta’s smallest city no more.

The baby of the province’s city clique, having only been granted such status in 2010, Lacombe has also been the runt of the litter population-wise for the last three and a half years.

But with its newest citizen count showing 12,728 people calling the city home, Lacombe has overtaken Wetaskiwin in population. The more northern Hwy 2A community had a population of 12,525 in 2011 and a town official said Tuesday that the city’s 2014 count will not register higher than the Lacombe total.

Moving up the population ranks did not get Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie bragging on Tuesday, but he certainly likes the fact that there are more Lacombe residents around.

“We’ve been very fortunate in Lacombe to have steady growth over the last number of years at 2.5 to three per cent per year. That’s very manageable with regards to infrastructure, with regards to services provided to citizens,” said Christie.

The new number for Lacombe is based on its 2014 municipal census, done from April 7 and June 30.

The show of growth is good news for the city, which had experienced two consecutive disappointing counts.

After a 2009 municipal census determined a population of 11,733, the 2011 federal enumeration found only 11,707 residents. The community’s attempt at a 2012 municipal census was scrapped as officials determined the process that found only 11,002 residents was deficient.

This time they are very confident that the count is accurate, considering they realized a 99.5 per cent response rate. Along with phone and in-person enumeration, the city employed the City of Airdrie’s census software program to allow for online filing for the first time.

“This time I can say with certainty that the instruments we were relying upon enabled us to ensure an accurate count, far more accurate certainly than some of the past counts,” said city chief administrative officer Norma MacQuarrie.

She said officials were expecting one in five residents to respond online, but ultimately one in three did so.

The city will release full census results — with age, education level, income level, etc. — later this month. Some citizens complained about the breadth of questions asked in 2012, so the survey was pared down some this year.

The population increase is expected to earn the city $255,188 in additional provincial and federal grant funding per year. The cost of conducting the count was $38,000, up from $14,000 in 2012.

Over a 10-year period, Lacombe’s population has risen 24.4 per cent, compared with 29.8 per cent for Red Deer. From 2011-14, Lacombe’s growth has been 8.7 per cent compared with 7.3 for Red Deer.

Blackfalds also conducted a census this spring, but results have not yet been released. From 2003-13, Blackfalds grew by 90.8 per cent; from 2011-13 the rate of increase was 13.6 per cent.

Sylvan Lake, though it remains a town, counted a population of 13,015 in 2013. Sylvan experienced annual growth of 7.2 per cent between 2001 and 2006, and 3.8 per cent annually from 2006 to 2013.

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