Small towns shrinking

Statistics Canada released information yesterday that probably won’t surprise many in the district: remote rural areas are facing declining populations.
The 2001 census clearly shows the continued urbanization of Canada since the last census was released in 1996. Many municipal politicians in the area, however, say their towns are seeing signs of growth.
Yet, Statistics Canada figures show almost all townships showed a marked decrease in population, with the exception of Chapple.
Chapple was the only township that saw its population increase—one extra person was added to the population—a 0.1 percent increase. There were 909 Chapple residents in 1996, 910 in 2001.
Chapple Coun. Peter Van Heyst wasn’t sure why the town’s numbers had remained stable.
“I don’t know whether the mill helped,” he said.
Lake of the Woods had the most marked decrease in size. The township was down 24.3 percent. There are now 330 residents in the township, 106 less than 1996. The numbers don’t add up for Grant Carlson, economic development officer with Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corp.
“I looked at a couple of the numbers and can’t believe them,” he said. “Pickle Lake is down 26 percent, Sioux Narrows is down 27. We were averaging a four-point increase from the 1991 to the 1996 increase. Of course, this was before amalgamation but I’d assumed we were increasing.
“We did have the layoffs with Abiti and some changes with the government in the late ‘90s but I wouldn’t have seen this as having a big effect. My question would be: are there other factors?,” Carlson wondered.
Atikokan lost 10.2 percent of its population from 1996 to 2001—there are now 3,632 residents, compared to 4,043 in 1996.
Alberton’s population decreased almost 7 percent from 1,027 in 1996 to 956 in 2001.
La Vallee’s population decreased to 1,073 from 1,130, a five percent decrease.
La Vallee Reeve Ken McKinnon said the last area statistics he saw had La Vallee as the only township in the Rainy River district that grew in size—an increase of 17 percent.
“We have a lot of young families and houses being built,” he said.
Emo lost 2.6 of its population–there are 1,331 residents in Emo, 35 less than in 1996. But Emo Reeve Russ Fortier was slightly skeptical.
“We’ve had some people move to the new subdivision who weren’t from the area,” he said. “But what always bothers me is the long-term [growth predictions]. In the next 20 years, the population is only supposed to grow by one percent. I find that hard to believe.”
Morley’s population decreased by 6.5 percent. There are now 447 residents of Morley, compared to 478 in 1996.
Dawson has 18 fewer residents—613—than in 1996, a 2.9 reduction in size.
Rainy River decreased by 2.7 percent, 27 fewer residents than 1996’s population base of 1,008.
As well, there were nine less residents of the Rainy River district who don’t live in municipalities, a decrease of 0.6. There are 1,605 people living outside township boundaries, down from 1,614 in 1996.
While Ontario’s population increased by 6.1 per cent , this stemmed from immigration, with many new citizens going to Toronto. Canadians are flocking to major city centres in what Statistics Canada calls a commuter-driven “doughnut effect”—people who work downtown but commute from the edge of the cities.
Ontario’s population increase of 656,000 people represented 57 per cent of Canada’s total gain—more than half of all immigrants who arrived from 1996 to 2001 settled in the province. The province’s 2001 population was 11.4 million, 36 per cent of the country.
A century ago, almost two-thirds of Canadians lived in small towns and villages and on farms. But now, remote rural areas are losing
populations.
Canada’s population increased by four percent overall.