Census shows strong population growth for British Columbia’s Sea to Sky region


Newly released census data confirms that Whistler and Pemberton have seen population growth over a five-year period

The population of the Sea to Sky Corridor has grown significantly over the past five years, and Whistler is no exception.

Data released on February 9 from the 2021 census shows the municipality’s permanent population increased to 13,982 last year. That’s a 19% increase since the last census in 2016, when Whistler’s population was 11,746.

“Whistler is a great place to live,” said Mayor Jack Crompton. “I think COVID has helped our growth and our population – people can live and work wherever they want.”

These figures match those of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Estimated annual population equivalent, which listed an estimated permanent population of 13,948 in 2020. Whistler’s estimated total population equivalent, which includes seasonal residents and the average number of visitors to Whistler on any given day in addition to permanent residents, fell to 29,264 in 2020 after reaching 36,426 in 2019.

While the growth confirmed by the 2021 census is what the RMOW expected, “it doesn’t make it any less meaningful or important to take action,” Crompton said.

“Whistler has never been interested in unconstrained growth”

Managing Whistler’s growth has long been a topic of conversation at City Hall. Crompton cited the creation of a strategic planning committee early in the board’s term and the building of a balance model – which seeks to provide insight into Whistler’s growth and development and what a stock might look like. appropriate – as “the best tool we have in our toolbox.”

There were 10,065 private dwellings in Whistler counted in the 2021 census. Of these, 5,597 are occupied by usual residents (i.e. permanent residents).

While the resort remains committed to housing 75% of its workforce locally, “Whistler has never been interested in unconstrained growth. We’ve been focused on the limits of growth and how we can make sure we can be the place everybody moved here for,” Crompton said, adding, “We don’t want to be a city in the mountains.

But as Whistler’s growth eventually levels off due to these limitations, much of the increased demand for the Sea to Sky lifestyle will logically be absorbed by neighboring municipalities.

Growth pattern expected to continue in Pemberton as population grows over 32%

While Squamish’s population reached 23,819 in 2021, up from 19,497 at the last census in 2016 (representing an increase of over 22%, making Squamish the 17th fastest growing municipality in Canada with at least 5,000 residents), the village of Pemberton has grown at a faster rate than any other municipality in the corridor. Its population has increased by 32.4% since the last census, from 2,574 people in 2016 to 3,407 people in 2021.

This number “may have been a little higher than I would have imagined, but [I’m] not shocked by that,” Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman said.

With major new real estate developments on the horizon and demand for Pemberton properties not expected to slow anytime soon, Richman said the Village of Pemberton (VOP) is focused on ensuring its infrastructure and services can keep up.

This means everything from considering an additional water source and sewage treatment plant capacity to analyzing the demand a larger population might have on fire departments. and traffic, Richman said, adding that regional transit and the availability of affordable housing will continue to be priorities for the Village Moving Forward.

“Another important aspect is, when you see growth in a town like ours, how do we manage growth and development to make sure we don’t lose the character of our valley?” he added.

With the village set to embark on an official community plan review in the near future, Richman said he looks forward to hearing thoughts from new and long-term residents on what they would like to see. look like Pemberton in the 10s, 20s and 50s.

Although Pemberton has experienced much of the same pressures as the rest of the corridor in recent years, managing growth is a newer conversation in the region than for its Whistler counterparts.

But the village’s growth will naturally be limited by factors such as floodplains and agricultural land reserves, Richman explained.

“We’re surrounded by some pretty dramatic geography, which will also help determine where growth can and can’t happen,” he said. “In some ways, I think that’s a good thing. This will ensure that we don’t spread out; it will keep us contained to some extent. But I don’t see [growth] slow down and I think we really need to be aware that [Pemberton] will continue to grow, and we have a lot of work to do to make sure we grow in the direction we want.

In Pemberton, there were 1,430 registered private dwellings in 2021, of which 1,357 were occupied by usual residents.

Sea to Sky’s overall growth also extended to Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, which even had 2,000 residents in 2021. That’s a 20.3% increase since 2016.

The provincial average for population growth over the five-year period is 7.6%, while the national population has increased by 5.2% since 2016.

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