The City of Thompson has successfully challenged Statistics Canada's May 10, 2011 census count putting the population at 12,829 – a drop of 4.6 per cent from 13,466 in 2006.
In a Feb. 15 letter to city manager Gary Ceppetelli, Lise Rivais, director of the Western Region and Northern Territories for Statistics Canada in Edmonton, says, the "2011 census counts for population and private occupied dwellings for the City of Thompson have been recompiled and now read as 13,123 persons and 4,825 private dwellings occupied by usual residents." As a result, the City of Thompson's population only dropped by 2.4 per cent between 2006 and 2011 – not 4.6 per cent.
Rivais, in her letter, attributed much of the initial undercount to data processing errors where 87 occupied dwellings were initially coded as unoccupied. The City of Thompson has picked up 294 additional residents as a result of the formal review by Statistics Canada.
Thompson had 13,446 residents in 2006 and 13,256 in 2001, Rivais said.
"When corrections are done to population and dwelling counts as a result of a formal review, the correction is often due to dwellings that are missed and unoccupied dwellings that are not properly coded," wrote Rivais. "The investigation did not find evidence of missed dwellings for the City of Thompson.
"The investigation then focused on the occupancy status and mostly focused on the increase in the number of unoccupied dwellings. Unoccupied dwellings are dwellings that are vacant or occupied only by temporary or foreign residents. The analysis of the increase in the number of unoccupied dwellings focused on two elements:
• part of the increase in the number of unoccupied dwellings was concentrated in a few areas of the City of Thompson. The investigation of those areas included follow-up with some large residential buildings where a high number of unoccupied dwellings was reported. The investigation confirmed that dwellings coded as unoccupied in 2011 were coded correctly at that time. Many multi-unit buildings in those areas were undergoing extensive renovations in 2011, and were partly or completely unoccupied on Census day (May 10, 2011). In addition, several buildings were found to offer short-term, temporary housing to staff, and units were therefore occupied by temporary residents or vacant at that time;
• the investigation also found, however, that a number of dwellings were wrongly coded as unoccupied during data processing and should have been coded as occupied. The processing error was corrected and revised population and dwellings counts were produced. The errors affected 87 private dwellings erroneously processed as unoccupied. The errors also affected the number of usual residents of dwellings coded as occupied. In all, the adjustment to the population count resulted in an increase of 294 usual residents.
Statistics Canada had released its initial census finding on Feb. 8, 2012 that as of May 10, 2011 our population had dropped 4.6 per cent from 13,466 to 12,829 residents between 2006 and 2011.
What's at stake – besides civic pride in falling to fifth place on the list of Manitoba cities and behind Steinbach as the third-largest city in Manitoba – the first time Thompson hadn't been the third largest since 1971 – and Portage la Prairie in fourth spot, are items like the City of Thompson's annual per capita grant from the Province of Manitoba, which would have decreased by approximately $110,000 beginning this year, as a result of the 617-person drop if the original numbers had stood. "The addition of 294 residents amounts to just over $50,000 per year," Ceppetelli said March 4. "This is from the per capita grants and VLT revenue the city receives from the province. This equates to $200,000 more for the city for the term of the census. In addition, we understand that a new Federal Gas Tax agreement will come into effect in 2014. This will be based on the 2011 census numbers. So the monies we currently receive for this will drop."
Steinbach was the fastest-growing city in the province over the last five years between 2006 and 2011, with a growth rate of 22.2 per cent and a 2011 population of 13,524. It remains in third place. But Thompson now moves out of fifth place, bumping Portage la Prairie, with a population of 12,996, out of fourth place.
The City of Thompson decided last April 9 to ask Statistics Canada to review its own data collection after a recent Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) meeting where Thompson learned a number of other places in Manitoba are equally unhappy with their census numbers and were contemplating seeing reviews. The formal review request was filed last December.
Census population numbers for 2011 dropped not just in Thompson but in primarily non-First Nations communities across the board throughout Northern Manitoba, including also Flin Flon, Snow Lake, Cranberry Portage, The Pas and Churchill. Manitoba's population, however, overall reached 1,208,268 in May 2011, an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2006. Manitoba ranked fifth in population growth compared with other provinces. Canada's population increased to 33,476,688.
At a Feb. 13, 2012 council meeting – five days after Statistics Canada released the 2011 census numbers –Mayor Tim Johnston attributed the population drop over the last five years to three key factors: Lack of housing stock, affordable housing and diverse housing options; failure to fill out the census; and failure to declare Thompson as home.
But Johnston said he was also skeptical as to whether the new figures reflected the genuine population, stating many residents he has discussed the issue with felt the same.
Tara Newton, a demographics and census statistician with the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics in Winnipeg, Thompson's population, according to Statistics Canada census data, peaked at 19,001 in 1971. By 1976, the population had dropped to 17,291. In 1981, the population continued to plunge downward to 14,288. The 1986 population was 14,701; in 1991 it was 14,977; and in 1996 it was 14,385.
The recent investigation by Statistics Canada "involved an analysis of all the documents and procedures used by the census enumerators during the 2006 and 2011 census," Rivais said. "Census enumeration records for both years were compared to ensure that dwellings were not missed in the Census Subdivision of the City of Thompson (SGC 4622026). Maps were reviewed to verify current boundaries and confirm that all population and dwellings within those boundaries were correctly allocated. The unoccupied dwellings were reviewed to ensure that the correct follow up action was taken to confirm their status.
The documentation and maps provided to Statistics Canada by the City of Thompson as part of its formal review request were also consulted, she said.