Slocan’s mayor is pleading with the village’s population to fill out their census forms and return them to the federal government.
“We want to get the word out: please, please get counted,” says Jessica Lunn.
The federal government has launched the 2021 census, and forms are starting to appear in people’s mailboxes. Lunn has put the issue in pretty clear economic terms: filling out the census form is good for you as a resident of Slocan.
“It provides us with more ability to re-invest in the community,” she says.
Slocan has first-hand knowledge about what not filling out the forms can do, the mayor says. Lunn says the village’s trouble with Statistics Canada began in 2016, the last time the federal agency was conducting the Canada-wide count.
“We were actually excited to hear back from the numbers because we had seen a lot of new development, positive indicators for the community… new builds, the numbers at school were increasing,” she says. “But instead of an increase, their numbers showed a reduction of 24 people.”
Statistics Canada determined that there had been a population drop in Slocan from 296 to 272 citizens, or about an 8% reduction.
“Staff questioned those numbers and did some research on their own,” says Lunn. Armed with their own data, tax rolls, and other supporting documents, the Village tried to appeal the results.
“There is an asterisk by our numbers from Stats Canada, because the numbers are questionable.”
It’s not just an academic exercise: a lower population means a reduced amount given in unconditional grants, like the federal gas tax grant. Provincial charts show a $2,000 drop in Village revenues two years in a row recently with that grant alone, because of the lower population figures.
“We are very good at working with what we get,” she says. “But if you don’t get counted, that’s money we can’t reinvest in our community.”
That’s why Lunn posted to Facebook recently to let citizens know it’s important for them to be counted.
She says part of the problem may be reluctance to be counted by authorities – “this is the Slocan Valley,” she notes, where a degree of skepticism towards government information-gathering is common.
“But it’s important for people to understand why this matters,” she told the Valley Voice. “It’s not the personal information, that doesn’t matter, it’s the overall numbers that count.”
Looking around town, Lunn says she’s confident the numbers will show the village has grown since 2016. With in-fill housing, multi-family units and commercial rental suites popping up over town, she’s pretty certain it won’t reflect a shrinking community.
As long as people fill out the forms and return them.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice