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Municipal Census in 2020 a challenge

Posted on January 27, 2021 by Taber Times

By Stan Ashbee
Taber Times
editor@tabertimes.com

According to the Town of Taber’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Phyllis Monks, administration has completed the 2020 Municipal Census. The enumeration began in October and ran until Dec. 20, 2020.

“The project was a little more challenging with the pandemic in play, but we were able to successfully get a response for 3,445 of the 3,474 households — which represents 99.2 per cent,” Monks noted.

Monks pointed out the current population of Taber is 8,711. “Well, this is less than what we anticipated, it does indicate Taber continues to grow.”

Methodology used during the census appears to have been successful with the completion of videos in Low-German available on each iPad the enumerators used, in cases where there were language barriers.

“As well, four of the enumerators were fluent in Low-German. Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) aided with translations and in sending videos out through WhatsApp to encourage participation — 43 per cent of respondents actually used the online system,” Monks said.

Overall, Monks continued, considering the difficulties of completing a census safely during a pandemic, “we were satisfied to see the continued growth of our community and will be able to use this data for future projects and for service organizations.”

In order for the town to come up with the representation number of 99. 2 per cent, Monks explained census organizers went through all of the residences in town and expanded a little bit this year. “There were some residential areas in the industrial community I think potentially had been missed in the past.”

“We focused a lot on some of the downtown opportunities for residential, as well. And also permanent residence within hotels. We had a very thorough GIS report for addressing,” Monks added.

Through the process, census organizers came up with the 3,474 addresses felt to be reflective of residential dwellings in some form. “It was fairly effective,” said Monks. The population total includes aggregate data from assisted living facilities, the women’s shelter, and properties not within residential districts that include living quarters (apartments over businesses, for example). Some residents of the Taber Hospital were also included, if they met the extended stay criteria — as laid out in enumeration procedures set out by the Government of Alberta.

Council passed a motion to accept the 2020 Municipal Census report as information.

At an Oct. 13, 2020 regular meeting of council, administration was directed to investigate the methodology of the census program Telus used in Revelstoke, B.C. for potential use in Taber to obtain more accurate data for census numbers, Monks noted. This was the Telus Insights project proposal.

Administration, Monks added, has had many discussions with Telus, in this regard. “Telus uses cellphone data to study the movements of subscribers,” and data is collected from the usage numbers and their market share. “The data for the Taber area has been collected since 2019 through one tower in town and those nearby in the M.D. of Taber.” The usage data can track user day trips to and from a community, as well as overnight stays.

“It’s a potentially valuable economic development and community planning tool. But unfortunately, it could not provide accurate data to replace the census. It would be useful to pick up visitors to the community, including as going as far to identify those from a particular geographical area,” it was stated during the council meeting. “If this project was be run as a follow-up to the recent census, it could provide beneficial enhancement for economic development purposes.”

Administration could monitor grants as they become available and potentially work on this project with the town’s Joint-Economic Development Committee, it was also noted during the council meeting.

It was also stated during the council meeting it might be a good idea to take this project forward to the Town of Vauxhall and the M.D., as they might be interested in searching for grants collectively or perhaps be willing to share mutual funding options. “There’s some important data for them, as well.”

A recent media release from the Town of Taber states the new population number demonstrates a population increase of 3.9 per cent compared to the 2015 Municipal Census — where 8,380 citizens were counted. This equates to an annual population increase of 0.79 per cent.

According to the media release, the data indicates the average household in Taber is 2.75 residents, and the majority (78.36 per cent) speak English as a primary language, with German (6.18 per cent) and Tagalog (2.74 per cent) making up the next largest primary languages.

Results indicate there are slightly more female than male citizens at 3,589 and 3,455 residents respectively. For the first time, the Municipal Census also included the option to select “other gender identity” and 0.13 per cent of the population were counted in this category.

Taber has a concentration of children and seniors, with the smallest number of residents being identified in the 15-29 age groups.

“Taber is a thriving and growing community, and the census results reveal residents continue to choose Taber as the place to live, work, raise a family and retire,” stated Mayor Andrew Prokop, in the media release.

“Council is thankful for each household who participated in the census, and for each resident that calls the Town of Taber home.”

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