The population in Parksville and the surrounding rural areas increased slightly, by 0.6 and 0.9 per cent respectively, while the population in Qualicum Beach dipped by 0.5 per cent.
As of 2014 Parksville’s population was 12,227, Qualicum Beach came in at 8,500 and the surrounding areas cumulatively recorded a population of 39,085 which includes Deep Bay/Bowser, Coombs/Errington, Nanoose Bay, French Creek, Cedar and Pleasant Valley.
The numbers come from B.C. Statistics 2014 Sub-Provincial Population Estimates, a report that came out in January stating the province grew as a whole by 1.1 per cent or 49,000 people.
B.C. Statistics director Jackie Storen said the two biggest factors affecting population booms and dips are natural change (birth and death rate) and migration.
“Rural communities seem to be getting smaller while metropolitan areas are getting larger,” said Storen. “People want better access to education, jobs and healthcare.”
According to the report, neighbouring city Nanaimo grew by 1.5 per cent reaching a population of 88,869.
Storen explains B.C. Statistics’ population estimates are based on hydro connections and health client registry. “Within Canada it’s really the job and where you can find work which will push people to go and live somewhere.”
Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre echoed Storen’s comments that population is intimately linked to the economic cycle.
“The economy is in a state of suspended animation in terms of growth and interest rates,” Lefebvre told The NEWS. “It (population) is related to what we have in terms of employment.”
Given the mild climate and natural beauty of the region, he said retirees will likely continue to relocate to the area but he wants to encourage a younger generation to consider moving here as well.
“While I’m mayor one of the things I’d like to do is work with the Chamber of Commerce to see if we can get other non retirees to move here, people who want to set up small businesses,” said Lefebvre. “With the downtrend in Alberta, people are going to be coming back here and it would be nice if we could get them to stay.”
Regional District of Nanaimo chair Joe Stanhope said population fluctuation is “hard to explain.” Stanhope, who represents French Creek, said the region is seeing an increase in population because French Creek is “one of the most, if not the most, urbanized electoral area in the province” as it’s sandwiched between Parksville and Qualicum Beach.
He said as people retire they tend to gravitate to urban centres in an effort to be closer to services and shopping.
“After this past winter in Eastern Canada there’s going to be a lot more people looking west in my opinion,” he said, noting record-breaking snowfalls on the other side of the country. “And look what we have here…this is a pretty neat community.”
Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek was also asked for comment regarding the population statistics.
“I don’t see the preservation of our small-town atmosphere as competing with growth, however; growth that does occur needs to be compatible with our quality of life,” Westbroek wrote in an e-mail to The NEWS. “Our long term approach, as per our OCP, in the long term is about quality of life that will drive our economy and population growth. I consider the population statistics for last year as a minor fluctuation in our long-term plan which will see a build out to approximately 12,000.”
According to B.C. Statistics, Surrey is the municipality that attracted the most newcomers in the 2014 year. Lake Country, Fort St. John and Sechelt also topped the list. On the other end of the spectrum Saanich, Prince Rupert and Smithers showed some of the fastest rates of decline.