Olds grows by 13.5%

2011 federal census sets town population at 8,235

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012 05:40 pm | Julie Bertrand
Noel West/Olds Albertan
Noel West/Olds Albertan
Two construction workers apply oriented strand board to the roof of a house off of 57 Avenue last Tuesday.
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Almost 1,000 new residents have moved to Olds in the last five years.

According to Census 2011 numbers, which were released last Wednesday by Statistics Canada, the population of Olds has increased by 13.5 per cent, with an official count of 8,235 residents. By comparison, the province of Alberta has increased by 10.8 per cent, while Canada has grown by 5.9 per cent. Moreover, Olds is now bigger than Innisfail, which has a population of 7,876.

“The Globe and Mail headline last Wednesday was ‘The country slants to the west.’ We are part of that,” said town CAO Norm McInnis.

Meanwhile, Bowden grew by 2.6 per cent over the same period, with a population of 1,241.

Carstairs has grown by 27.5 per cent, with a population of 3,442. Didsbury now has a population of 4,957, thanks to a growth of 15.1 per cent. Like Bowden, Sundre fell below the Canadian rate, with a growth of 2.6 per cent.

The number of Olds residents might actually be higher than the one given by Statistics Canada, since the 2011 Census did not include out-of-town students enrolled at Olds College.

“The last I heard is that the college sort of puts its semi-permanent population at about 1,300,” said McInnis.

An increase in population means an increase in grant money for the town, since most grant programs at the provincial and federal levels are per capita.

“Typically, there is an offset on that, whereas the provision of services has to go up to deal with the growth as well,” said McInnis.

“In real terms, it is probably a wash.

McInnis said he intends to ask council to authorize the town to conduct a census between federal census years.

“I will be suggesting to council that a five-year span is too long and that we will have to look at doing a census somewhere in between that five-year period,” he said.

While certain towns in Alberta such as Okotoks and Chestermere have grown by more than 40 per cent, McInnis does not envy their numbers.

“I do not think that growth is a panacea. I do not think it is the answer to most of our problems at the community level,” he said.

The high number of new residents also brings in issues.

“Growth is always a two-edged sword. It is more demands on our services,” said deputy mayor Harvey Walsh.

McInnis thinks that the town has to keep creating jobs.

“We have to keep those 1,000 people working in our community, not just living in our community,” Walsh said.

Walsh believes that the new residents were attracted by Olds’ location and lifestyle.

“People realize that it is a small-town living and that they really do not have to go anywhere,” he said.

“Everything that they need is here: financial services, businesses, food stores and other shops.”

Walsh said credit for the town’s rapid growth should go to residents and volunteers for making Olds “such a great place to live.”


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