No census worries: mayor

While the latest federal census figures show St. Albert lagging behind some of its Capital Region counterparts in terms of growth, Mayor Nolan Crouse said he’s not too worried.

Statistics Canada released the first of the figures from the 2011 census on Wednesday, Feb. 8, showing that St. Albert had grown in population from 57,764 in 2006 to 61,466 — a jump of 6.4 per cent over that five-year period.

Other Capital Region municipalities far outpaced St. Albert’s growth rate over that same time period, including Beaumont at 48.2 per cent, Leduc at 43.1 per cent, Fort Saskatchewan at 27.4 per cent and Morinville at 26.5 per cent.

But Crouse wasn’t too worried about the figures.

“It’s not surprising because we don’t grow very aggressively, because we don’t have the residential lots available, and the annexation didn’t happen until 2007,” he said, referring to the addition of more than 1,300 hectares of land from Sturgeon County. “It’s going to take a few years before that nudges up.

“There’s no boom in our community, and there never will be,” he added. “We don’t have forest products, we’re not going to build new plants.”

Between 2006 and 2011, Spruce Grove experienced a 33.9 per cent jump in population, going from 19,541 to 26,171 people. Mayor Stuart Houston said that much of that had to do with lower levies on developers compared to municipalities like St. Albert, which kept homes affordable for young families.

“We’ve been growing at more than six per cent each year, and the City of Spruce Grove has an attraction for young families in particular,” he said. “Our largest demographic right now is children age zero to four; that’s about 10 per cent of our entire population. There are lots of young families moving out [there]. It’s about affordability and a safe community.”

With St. Albert refocusing its efforts on economic development and bringing in light industrial companies, Crouse said St. Albert is on a good track, where the industrial development will bring more people to live here, which in turn will drive commercial development.

Houston agreed, saying that’s the road Spruce Grove has taken, and it has worked well for them.

“We’ve had over $660 million in development over the last five years in Spruce Grove, and we’ve got some major commercial developments that are happening … We’ve worked with the development community on how to make those things happen,” he said.

— GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader