The 2016 Census figures are out and Saanich Peninsula municipalities have seen growth since 2011 — the last time official Census population data was released.
Central Saanich saw the most growth on the Peninsula — a 5.5 per cent jump. That means 16,814 people, compared with 15,436 in 2011.
Sidney had the next highest increase in population: 4.4 per cent, or 11,672 people (11,178 in 2011). That’s a significant reversal for Sidney, which registered an approximate one per cent decline in its population five years ago.
North Saanich also saw growth: a jump to 11,249 people — a 1.4 per cent increase over the 11,089 people in 2011.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor says the statistics appear to be on target with earlier population growth projections of one per cent per year since 2011.
“It’s good to see it,” he said. “More young families coming here is a positive sign and enrolment in schools seems to be up.”
Windsor said preparing for growth in populations requires planning. He said there have been housing developments in the works since the economic downturn in 2008. Those projects were stalled then, but have been coming back ever since, most notably in the village hubs of Saanichton and Brentwood Bay.
“It’s a bit of a mini-boom,” he said.
That said, Windsor noted the District’s planning has to take into account urban pressures on agricultural land. As Central Saanich is one of the fastest-growing areas on the Peninsula — with an estimated five to 10 per cent growth rate over the next Census period — they have to find balance.
“I expect (Central Saanich) will still be a highly desirable place to live.”
Windsor added the growth in population and in residential households could have an impact on the District’s infrastructure, and therefore the tax rate. He said the biggest impact on people’s taxes will be the various projects being considered by the municipality.
Windsor said he expects there to be a “tax lift” this year, attributable to the council’s “investment in the community.”
When told of the growth in her community, North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said the numbers were “interesting.”
Finall added she doesn’t expect to see a big impact on the District in the wake of their modest population increase.
“In our 2007 Official Community Plan, it projected increases in the District’s population would get to about 11,000 by 2011.”
She said North Saanich has barely cracked that amount in 2016.
That could change over the next few years, she added, due to in-stream residential developments. The Eaglehurst property on Canora road is currently under construction — a 120-unit project. And a condo building project on McDonald Park Road will add another 55 units.
“There’s more to come, in the next Census,” Finall said.
With population growth, she continued, comes more demand for services, such as transportation, as well as more pressure on existing infrastructure.
“If you’re not providing the fundamentals that make life liveable, and there’s a lot of population growth, it will just be making things worse.”
The PNR emailed Sidney Mayor Steve Price for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.