April 17th, 2024

City Notebook: Population growth? Hatters want to know

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 30, 2024.


Canada now has 41 million residents and Alberta’s population grew by 4.4 per cent last year, we were told by Statistics Canada last week.

But what about the Hat, where we all remember elections being fought, won and lost over stagnant growth?

A few people have suggested that a municipal census might be needed to get a view of whether an influx of folks is behind stress on the housing market.

That includes Greg Keen, president of the Medicine Hat Real Estate Board, who suspects population growth could be behind high demand, but doesn’t have the data to make a determination.

“I’d love to know,” Keen said recently. “For so long there was so much talk about how we hadn’t grown, but the pressure on the rental market and single-family homes hasn’t let up. What’s that tell us?”

The 2013 city census produced many groans showing an 83-person increase. The 2021 federal census showed us up by a mere 11 souls over 2015.

But a municipal census, last done in 2015, can cost $100,000, and no longer has the financial upside that it once did.

Years ago, having a local number that better captured students and out-of-town workers, was a cost benefit as it affected per-capita grants provided to the city from other levels of government.

The 2019 provincial budget changed that however, and now an official estimate by Municipal Affairs is the figure used in calculations (its number for the Hat was a familiar-sounding 63,271 in 2023.)

City officials cancelled the 2019 local count in the interest of cost savings and hasn’t contemplated scheduling another.

As for an answer in Vital Statistics data, the 2023 figures for the Hat showed that for a second year in a row the city recorded more deaths than births, continuing a general trend.

A look ahead

There’s no council meeting on Monday – no foolin’- due to a change last October that managed the Easter Monday issue by shifting meetings by one week this month. They next sit on April 8.

Council’s audit committee will receive the city’s 2023 financial statements, which will provide a final number on what’s expected to be a record-breaking year in city power sales.

100 years ago

Ratepayers intended to force a council meeting and public vote of “want of confidence” in five aldermen seen as key in the termination of power plant superintendent G.R. Taylor, the News reported in early April 1924.

Several organizers feared that a recall process could take six weeks, at which point the position would be likely refilled and a fait accompli.

A headline from Hanna-area announced “Insane killer running at large” after a local farmer was found dead.

Hatter Will Gray was crowned the Alberta Billiards Champion after a 250-to-150 total points play with Redcliff’s Frank Baird at the Cypress Club.

Lurching toward an end of prohibition, the Alberta government sparred with Ottawa over the $10 per gallon federal tariff on Scotch and other imported whiskies.

The City of Brandon was gripped with the issue of whether golf should be allowed on Sunday. A late clause in a city lease to the civic course raised hackles that the provision could lead to other commercial activity on the Lord’s Day, including dance halls. The legality of how the bylaw passed was being challenged.

Medicine Hat would host the first ever “Corn Show” exhibition in the province, which now boasted 50,000 acres dedicated to the crop that was mostly grown for fodder.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com.

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