The results from the latest federal census shows more people are living in the region.
Statistics Canada released the 2016 census data earlier this month with Ponoka County netting a significant jump in population, while the Town of Ponoka saw a moderate increase over the census from 2011.
Ponoka County, after seeing its population fall between 2001 and 2006, saw its overall numbers climb to 9,806 up by 950 from 2011, a hike of 10.9 per cent. For the Town of Ponoka, it grew to 7,229 up by 6.7 per cent, or 451 people.
The town’s growth has been fairly steady for the last decade, according to Tim Schmidt, the town’s director of planning and economic development and with this increase comes more interest from private developers as well as added money from the province.
“The identified population increase for Ponoka means additional grant funding. Annual grant funding such as MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding is based on municipal populations, education property tax requisitions and kilometres of local roads,” he stated.
“As Ponoka reaches closer to a population of 10,000, larger commercial entities and a wider range of housing choices are expected to appear. We are focusing now on land use and infrastructure planning which will prepare the municipality to adequately respond to and accommodate new development initiatives as they appear.”
County CAO Charlie Cutforth was pleased to see the increase. “That’s definitely significant considering the reduction we had previously, so it’s nice to see some positive growth,” stated Cutforth.
“The increase in property tax revenue (from the population increase) will benefit the county directly, while providing more potential customers and businesses for the county and the towns. Any money from other levels of government won’t be significant.”
He added the new population figure may have some influence on the MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding the county receives, but what exactly that amount could be isn’t known. The county will also hopefully benefit through more commercial and industrial activity due to the population hike.
Much of the increase, according to Cutforth, is the number of families moving to the rural areas between Rimbey and Gull Lake, with a slight jump in the number choosing to reside in recent small acreage subdivisions just east of Ponoka.