Statistics Canada released data about population and dwellings from the 2016 Census on Feb. 8.
The city’s population increased from 15,554 in 2011 to 16,604 in 2016. This growth rate of 6.8 per cent is higher than the population increase of about four per cent between 2006 and 2011.
Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault was expecting to see the city’s growing population reflected in the latest census data.
“All it takes is just driving around and you can see some new houses, you can see new businesses, you see the increased traffic,” he said. “That came as no surprise to me.”
He was actually expecting to see a larger population number for the city in the census data, because the most recent eHealth Saskatchewan population report indicated there were 17,826 people registered for health coverage in Swift Current.
“To me, that would be a pretty real number,” he said. “Everybody that comes would definitely get a health card, but not everybody would fill out a census form. We also know there are some pockets in the city that didn’t receive census forms and so that made some skewed numbers, but that being said, we are happy for the growth. This is the most we’ve ever seen in our city and we are in growth mode. We are going to see even more.”
He feels all aspects of life in the city will benefit from a growing population, whether it is support for vendors on Market Square during the summer or the number of people attending a Swift Current Broncos or Swift Current 57’s game.
“In simple terms, more people here mean more ratepayers, which help our economy, help our city and can help even more services,” he said.
At the same time a growing population presents some challenges with regard to the provision and maintenance of services and infrastructure.
“That puts more requirements on our water and our wastewater,” he said. “We’re ready for it in that we’ve been planning for it, but there is added cost so that we can have great services for all the people here in Swift.”
Perrault believes more people are moving to Swift Current because they appreciate the benefits of living in the city.
“I personally believe that Swift Current is the best value proposition as far as cities go across the province,” he said.
He noted the city is a safe and caring community with low crime levels, there are many parks and walking trails, and winter temperatures are milder than in any other city in Saskatchewan.
“So when you put all those things together I think you get your best bang for your buck,” he said. “It’s a nice community to live in and it’s a great place to raise a family and I really believe that message is now getting out to the public, but the main reason people come is the jobs and we do have low unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the province. We’re lower than the national average.”
The City of Swift Current’s goal is to make people and organizations aware of the benefits of living in the city. A new economic development committee has been created to promote the community.
Perrault referred to future discussions with the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) to highlight the suitability of the Swift Current area for wind projects.
“We’ve reached out to them and we hope to attend a convention with them in the next couple of years so that we can show that Swift Current is the number one place that they should choose to invest, be it in a manufacturing facility devoted to wind or if it’s wind companies that are coming out here to set up wind farms,” he said.
The construction of the Chinook Power Station, a 350-megawatt combined cycle natural gas facility, near Swift Current will present another opportunity to increase awareness about the city. The project will create up to 500 jobs during the construction period and employment for about 24 people during the operational phase.
“We’re doing the same message with manufacturing companies and when the 500 temporary workers are here working on the Chinook Power Plant, I hope to go out and meet many of them, especially the trades from out of town, and encourage them to consider coming here to Swift,” he said.
Perrault is confident the city’s growth momentum will be maintained in the years ahead, regardless of what happens in the broader economy.
“We are a very diverse economy, which is different than some of the other smaller cities in our province,” he said. “We do have a strong ag sector, which in my opinion helped us weather the storm that we saw as a result of the reduced oil price. Our city still maintained growth in that time and it was in a big part due to strong agriculture.”
The City’s strategic plan includes a vision to achieve a population of 25,000 by 2015. He is confident that goal is still achievable.
“That is a big number, there’s no doubt,” he said. “Just in 2016, we saw an increase of 13 per cent business licences. Businesses drive our economy and when you’re seeing increases like that during a time of uncertainty, that’s reassuring. ... So it’s an attainable goal and I think it is something we can do. It is going to happen with people who are committed to investing in our community, those that are here and those that are coming here.”
According to the 2016 Census, the Canadian population increased by 1.7 million people or five per cent from 2011 to 2016 and there were 35,151,728 people in the country on census day, May 10, 2016.
The highest population growth from 2011 to 2016 took place in the three prairie provinces. Alberta had the highest population growth of all the provinces at 11.6 per cent. Manitoba's population increased with 5.8 per cent and Saskatchewan’s population grew 6.3 per cent.