The mayor of Slocan was so eager to learn her village’s population on the 2021 census that she made a point of getting up early on Wednesday to see the figure as soon as Statistics Canada released it.
Five years ago, Jessica Lunn and the rest of village council were perplexed when the results of the 2016 census indicated they had declined to 272 people from 296 in 2011. Their own data suggested they had actually grown to about 360.
The village felt there had been a mistake and challenged the results. As a result, Stats Can adjusted the village’s headcount upward to 289, still a lower total than five years prior.
But would the 2021 census indicate a growing or shrinking town?
“I was really curious what it was going to look like because in 2016 it showed a decline despite lots of indicators of growth,” Lunn says.
What she discovered confirmed what she believed: the community has grown in leaps and bounds in the last five years.
The population grew from 289 to 379, a net gain of 90 people that outpaced all other West Kootenay communities on a percentage basis.
“The numbers definitely seem more accurate compared to the last [census],” Lunn says. “We’ve seen more building permits, infill housing, and new development than the community has seen in a long while. Our village office has been so busy. Definitely all indicators were that we’re a growing village and the numbers on the 2021 census reflect that.”
Slocan’s increased population is significant for another reason. Its sawmill, long the community’s lifeblood, closed in 2011 and was demolished starting in 2014. The village has since acquired the property for $1.5 million and plans to make its redevelopment a key part of the community’s future.
Lunn says the growing population suggests Slocan has successfully navigated the transition from being an industrial town, adding the village has high speed internet and cell service, so people can enjoy the benefits of a rural lifestyle while remaining connected.
“It’s a good life and I think more people are starting to recognize it,” she says.