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That shrinking feeling

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 31/06) - The Northwest Territories’ population declined by about 500 people last year because people are packing up for Alberta, according to Statistics Canada.

Premier Handley doesn’t believe the latest numbers are correct

But Premier Joe Handley, who three years ago admonished Stats Canada for getting their 2001 survey wrong, doesn’t believe the latest numbers are correct either because the NWT doesn’t fit into the statisticians’ formula like other places in Canada.

He said, however, if there is any losses it’s probably happening in Yellowknife, said Handley.

“People come to Yellowknife for a short work term and move on in a year or two. There is a high turn-over,” said the premier.

Jobs in the RCMP, military, health sector and teaching are some of the professions leading to a transient population in Yellowknife, he said.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said he doesn’t believe the report either. He said the city’s numbers show Yellowknife’s population is continuing to grow.

“Our general housing plan predicted our population would go up 1.6 per cent over the next decade. The new housing study being conducted right now could see that number increase to 2 per cent.”

Van Tighem said he has not noticed any major differences in the waiting lists for social housing or the vacancy rate in Yellowknife.

In January 2006, Statistics Canada estimated the population to be about 42,526 people. That’s a one percent decrease from January 2005.

“Population size is always an estimate, but we spoke with Statistics Canada and they stand by their numbers,” said Angelo Cocco, a territorial statistician for the NWT Bureau of Statistics.

Over the course of a year, the report showed 2,176 people migrated to the NWT while 3,226 moved away.

Only 514 babies were born, with 193 deaths across the territory, leaving a difference of 489.

Across the country, Statistics Canada numbers show Alberta was the only province to show a substantial migration increase - many of them from the NWT, according to Cocco.

Population estimates are important because the GNWT receives federal funding for each person living in the territory. The population was counted based on tax records.

The last population survey done in the NWT was in 2001.

Premier Joe Handley was critical of the 2001 survey because several communities were not properly counted.

“Statistics Canada only paid minimum wage and brought in workers from the south who didn’t know anything about the communities,” said Handley.

Cocco said the NWT Bureau of Statistics is working with Statistics Canada to address those problems for the next survey, planned for May 16.

“It is vital everyone is counted. We have spent months working on a complete re-listing of dwellings and developed community maps to ease the burden for Statistics Canada.”

Population surveys are done every five years. Calls to StatsCan weren't returned.