Did we actually grow in population or did new immigrants to our city cover the fact that we lost long time residents? That's a question being asked this week after the Census was released by Statistics Canada.
The numbers show we grew by 616 people between 2011 and 2016, but anecdotal evidence shows we should have grown by a lot more. The national average for population growth was 5% and the provincial average was over 6%.
The reason the numbers are in question is because the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council's Executive Director, Stefanie Palmer is reporting that they're seeing hundreds of new immigrants each year but it's not reflecting back in our population figure.
"In 2016, we served 700 new clients and we know that we wouldn't see about 7-800 more people that we don't know that are here."
The council only helps refugees and immigrants who seek help in re-settling with hundreds more who are able to start a new life on their own. Palmer says the 2016 figures are a good representation of what they've seen for a number of years, suggesting our population should be up by a lot more.
When asked, Statistics Canada suggested we could be losing people to Alberta but the numbers don't show it because we were welcoming so many immigrants during the same time. Palmer went on to suggest that it might be a case of so many immigrants using Moose Jaw as a temporary stop to get accustomed to their new country before moving onto another, larger centre, therefore they wouldn't be here long enough to be included in the census.
Some officials, such as former Moose Jaw Mayor Glenn Hagel and former Mayor Deb Higgins have argued that the census is a flawed system for reporting a city's population, saying people are often missed, forms are not filled out, the figures are already old by the time they are released and so the count is inaccurate. Back in 2011, SaskHealth had issued 36,408 cards for residents of Moose Jaw which was almost 2000 more people than the census reported.
Heath card numbers are sometimes viewed as being more representational since they are always up to day but it has been argued that those figures can also be inaccurate because patients could have more than one, a resident could have passed away or moved away with the card still technically being active at the time of being reported. A request for the health card figures has been made to the ministry of health but there has been no response so far.
Looking back at 2006 figures and comparing them to the new census, Moose Jaw has grown by just over 1600 people in the last ten years.