The census results are in, and Morinville is officially big enough to call itself a city – but whether or not it should is a question for the next council, says the town’s mayor.
Morinville Mayor Barry Turner announced the results of the 2020 town census during the Sept. 8 town council meeting.
Done in person, online and by phone between April 1 and July 12, the census determined that the town officially has 10,578 residents, 6.92 per cent more than it did in 2016 (the date of the last census).
“It’s a huge milestone,” Turner said in an interview, one that opens up a lot of options for the town’s future.
Morinville is one of the few places in Alberta to try and hold a census since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Town census co-ordinator Melodie Steele said the town went ahead with its census as it had seen signs of considerable population growth since 2016 and had already done much of the prep-work when the province’s lockdown orders arrived in March. The town also didn’t want to overlap with next year’s federal census for fear of causing census fatigue (as happened back in 2016).
Steele said the census team initially went all-out to encourage residents to fill out their census forms online, as they weren’t sure if door-to-door enumeration would be possible during the pandemic.
Some 56.4 per cent of the town’s 3,894 households did so – probably a record for any online census response in the province, Steele said. Another 17 per cent (about 650 homes) responded by phone. When the province started Stage 2 of its relaunch plan on June 12, Steele and her two helpers went out equipped with masks and gloves to count up the last thousand-odd homes.
The Municipal Government Act says a community can become a city if it has at least 10,000 residents. As of last year, Alberta had 19 cities and nine towns that could qualify as cities based on their population (not counting Morinville).
City status would give Morinville authority over Hwy. 642 within town, which would let it control the repairs and modifications made to it, Turner said. (Town officials have for years wrestled with Alberta Transportation over traffic lights and repairs to that road.) The downside of that is that the town would also have to pay for the road’s maintenance.
Turner said city status could also grant the town prestige and help it attract more investment.
Turner said council could start researching the effects of city status and talk to residents about it, but that the decision to become a city would likely be up to the next council.
Steele said she planned to present other data from the census at the Sept. 22 council meeting, including age ranges, genders, and employment (although pandemic-induced unemployment may have skewed that last number). She also hoped to announce the winners of the town’s census contest – residents could win $150 in gift certificates if they filled out the census online or gave the best estimate of the town’s population.
Steele said information from the census would help town and school officials plan for the future.