The City of Estevan says it was shortchanged and will ask the federal government to look into the matter.
Since the release of the 2011 census earlier this year, the City has been vocal that the figure of 11,054 is nowhere near representative of Estevan’s actual population. At the April 30 regular meeting of council, they unanimously passed a motion to apply for a review.
“We don’t think they have the right numbers, we still don’t think they are the right numbers,” Mayor Gary St. Onge said. “We are concerned that they didn’t count everybody. If it doesn’t cost us anything, we might as well let them know that we are not happy about it.”
St. Onge said the foundation of their belief that they were shortchanged is the covered population statistics released by the provincial Ministry of Health. The covered population is a tabulation of all the people in a community who have a Saskatchewan health card.
As of June 2011, the government figures showed there were 12,335 people in the city with health cards. However, when the census figures came out Estevan’s population was pegged at over 1,250 fewer people.
The census figure is an important number for the city. Most provincial and federal grants, including provincial municipal operating grants, are factored on a per capita basis so each person counted means extra funds for cities, towns and municipalities.
The appeal is just an application and the government can deny a review, but St. Onge said the wording of the document leads them to believe a review is likely.
St. Onge added he would also like the City to explore the possibility of hiring a firm to conduct a census on their behalf.
A number of communities, most recently La Ronge, have taken a similar step after feeling their population figures were incorrect.
“Get people who know the city well and really go after people and bug them until they get the right numbers,” St. Onge suggested.
The one drawback of taking such a step, which would likely cost $20,000 to $25,000, is that the private census is not recognized by the government with respect to grant funding. However, St. Onge said there are other benefits.
“You can show them once and for all this isn’t right,” he said.