CORNER BROOK — In 1976, the Town’s and Cities, Atlantic Edition listed the population of the City of Corner Brook at 32,000.
On Wednesday Statistics Canada’s 2011 census data put the city’s population at 19,886. That number represents a one per cent drop over the 2006 figure of 20,083. Fifty years before that data collected by the Canadian National Railways put the population of the city at 23,223.
Hearing that the city’s population had dropped was disappointing for Mayor Neville Greeley.
“I was certainly disappointed to see the numbers had dropped below 20,000, but given the demographic of the area, I’m not totally surprised,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
Greeley said the biggest reason for the drop has to do with declining birth rates. Large families were once common and now people are waiting longer to have children and the norm tends to be just one or two.
But on a positive note, Greeley said city data shows the number of businesses in Corner Brook is steadily increasing. He said this is something the census data doesn’t show.
And even though the population of the city has dropped by 197 in five years, 150 more homes have been built here.
“It still tells me that people still want to come and build a home here and live here,” said Greeley.
“We’re always trying to create a friendly environment in the city for people who want to raise a family.”
To do that the mayor said the city has several plans for opening up land at various stages of development. He noted that not all of the land currently open for development has been sold, so the decision to move to areas outside of the city doesn’t really have to do with a lack of land.
In areas like Pasadena it may have to do with the fact the land is flat and the mill rate is cheaper.
Greeley said a large part of the working population living in Pasadena commute to Deer Lake and Corner Brook to work.
“So Pasadena doesn’t have to provide the same infrastructure for its residents,” said Greeley.
He said residents from Pasadena and other areas come into the city to use high-ticket items, like sports facilities, but their taxes do not go to support that.
Looking at it from a regional perspective, Greeley said some areas like Steady Brook also saw a decrease in population, while others like Mount Moriah and Massey Drive increased.
“So really, I mean that’s all part of the greater Corner Brook area and some people are choosing to live close to the city and to conduct their business here and live outside.”
Greeley wasn’t concerned the population numbers would have a negative effect on the city when it comes to the funding formula used to allocate provincial capital works money.
“No, because our numbers would have to change by thousands in order to change our position with capital works and the funding formula there. There’s no danger in that happening.”
Meanwhile, Massey Drive Mayor Gord Davis believes the census numbers don’t really give an accurate count.
The town’s population is listed as increasing by 20.7 per cent, but Davis said it’s more than that.
He said there are more people living in his town than the 1,412 Statistics Canada says there are.
Massey Drive is one of the places that has become attractive to people who want to be near the amenities a city offers, but without living in a city.
Davis said the town’s slogan is “Country Living at It’s Best.”
“And that’s exactly what it is ... and why we’re growing,” he said.
“Our snow clearing is next to none. The biggest thing for people around this area, where we’re basically a snowbelt, is being able to get back and forth to work.”
He described the snow clearing in town as “immaculate.”
Another draw is the town’s housing developments.
He said the developments are nice, are either on snowmobile trails or have easy access to snowmobile and walking trails.
Davis said Massey Drive doesn’t really have to do anything to promote itself.
“Everybody just comes.”