Population Change in BC between 2001 and 2006
by William Warren Munroe, April 15, 2007
Boom time varies across BC

There are some Regional Districts in BC experiencing boom times, while much of the province is still bust. The southwest-central and the northeast regions of the province have had an increase in the population between 2001 and 2006, but the Kootenays and particularly the Northwest have sustained declines.

Hardest hit is the coast, north of the Comox Strathcona Regional District which includes northern Vancouver Island, thru the Central Coast, Skeena, and inland from the Alaskan pan handle to the Stikine Region. This entire region also experienced a decline in population between 1996 and 2001, with a loss of nearly 15,000 or 20% of the 1996 population over the decade to 2006. With more people being born into the region than are dieing, unlike a growing number of areas within the province, the north west portion of the province has lost people due to relatively very high out-migration and very low in-migration.

Source: Statistics Canada; Prepared by W.W. Munroe

Areas with abundant resources often gain population when demand rises. The rise in prices results in relatively higher wages, not only encouraging people to stay in the region, but also attracting people to the region. The fluctuating employment opportunities associated with the boom and bust resource based economy usually results in an increase in population during boom times; however, during this boom time, the North-west remains relatively unattractive to migrants. Nonetheless, migration to areas far from high density areas usually becomes positive late in the up side of the boom cycle. Therefore, the North-west could still have an increase before the next down turn expected to begin in 2008 - 2009.

The Northeastís natural gas and oil have attracted people between 2001 and 2006. The growth in population is a result of both more people being born than are dieing as well as positive net migration. The Northeast saw a drop of more than 1,500 people between 1996 and 2001 but experienced an increase between 2001 and 2006 of over 3,000 people. Over the decade, the population rose from approximately 62,300 in 1996 to 64,400 people in 2006, recovering from the decline bottoming around 2001.

The interior plateau of the Cariboo has also continued to experience a decline in population since the mid nineties. The warmer winter temperatures have allowed for the spread of the fungus carried by the pine beetle has resulted in a rapid increase in wood supply and an increase spread between input and output costs. Nonetheless, restrictions on processed timber crossing the border to the USA has resulted in a decrease in jobs and out migration. Ranching has suffered as well, due to the BSE scare, even though the vast majority of cattle in the region is free range and not feedlot.

The Kootenays also experienced continued out-migration with the decline in jobs in the forestry and mining industries. Access to timber for export is increasingly difficult. Productivity gains are reducing the employment for coal mining. Recreation activity has increased but this does not make up for the loses.

The areas surrounding the core regions of Vancouver and Victoria, particularly Nanaimo and Kelowna have continued to have an increase in population from the mid-nineties. The regional districts in the southern portion of the province, excluding the Kootenays, are home to an increasing number of people, both from increased migration and births.

However, in retirement communities like Penticton in the Okanagan, and Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island the number of deaths is increasingly exceeding births. If in-migration slows, as it did in the late 1990ís, the population may decline during the next downturn in economic activity.

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