The 2021 Canada general population census numbers are in, and every community in the Comox Valley shows growth in the past five years.
While the growth comes as little surprise, a couple of local communities may be breathing collective sighs of relief.
Cumberland, despite showing the highest percentage growth among the three Comox Valley municipalities, at 18.5 per cent, remains under the 5,000 threshold.
Cumberland’s population grew from 3,753 in 2016, to 4,447 in 2021. The 5,000 figure is the threshold for communities at which point they have to take over the 70 per cent of police costs from the province. (The federal government covers the other 30 per cent.)
Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said the village is pleased with the results.
“I am very pleased with the numbers,” said Baird. “Staff had predicted that we would be close, so we definitely had to wait until the numbers came out. We all kept our fingers crossed.”
The village has a reserve fund created for the eventuality, and Baird said the plan is to continue to stockpile money into that reserve fund.
“That reserve fund covers fire also, so if there’s an emergency that comes up, we can use it… Otherwise, we will keep growing the reserve.”
The other municipality that had concerns about increased policing costs was the town of Comox. It showed 5.5 per cent growth, but also remained under an important threshold. There are 14,806 residents in the town now, up from 14,028 five years ago. The 15,000 threshold is when the town’s policing costs increase from 70 to 90 per cent.
The town’s chief administrative officer, Jordan Wall, was happy to see the results.
“We are optimistic -we still have to put in a call to the RCMP to verify that they are going to use those numbers, but I think at this point we are optimistic that we aren’t going to have to move from the 70 to 90 per cent pay,” he said. “This will make a big difference to our yearly costs. It means our yearly costs won’t go up by somewhere around $300,000 per year.”
The Town of Comox does have a residual fund set aside for the RCMP, although expected costs will deplete that fund.
“There are a couple of things we need to keep in mind,” said Wall. “The retro pay that is owed to the RCMP is going to completely deplete our public safety reserve. Those are funds that we have in order to cover any kind of large investigation that needs to take place, such as a murder, or a big drug investigation that the RCMP need more resources for, so we are going to need to rebuild that reserve.”
Courtenay grew by 10.8 per cent over the past five years, from 25,639 in 2016, to 28,420 in 2021.
All Comox Valley Regional District electoral areas showed some growth in the past five years, with Area A making the biggest jump percentage-wise – 9.9 per cent, to 7,926 residents. It had 7,213 residents in 2016. Area A comprises the southernmost part of the Comox Valley, including Denman and Hornby islands.
Area B (Comox, Lazo) showed modest growth of 4.2 per cent, to 7,392 residents (7,095 in 2016).
Area C (Puntledge – Black Creek) – the largest area, sizewise, in the regional district, showed a 6.8 per cent population increase in 2021 (from 8,577 t0 9,158).
K’ómoks First Nation had a substantial increase, percentage-wise, jumping 31.1 per cent in population, from 222 in 2016, to 291 in 2021.
Provincially, British Columbia grew by 7.6 per cent, to eclipse the five million mark. The province now has 5,000,879 residents, up from 4,648,055 in 2016.
The Canadian population grew by 5.2 per cent in the past five years, to 36,991,981.