NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Alberta Urban Municipalities Association encourage the Alberta government to develop a process where the “shadow population” can accurately be reflected in all funding programs for municipalities.
WHEREAS Alberta attracts a significant number of people who spend extensive amounts of time in one municipality of Canada but declare their primary residence elsewhere in another municipality for census purposes;
WHEREAS this population is commonly referred to as a “shadow population”;
WHEREAS the MGA allows for the ability under section 57 for municipalities to conduct its own census;
WHEREAS the Determination of Population Regulation allows for the inclusion of the “shadow population” in the census, whereby the actual procedure limits the ability for accurate census numbers of the “shadow population”;
WHEREAS the “shadow population” is not truly reflected in official population counts, it is challenging to plan infrastructure and program service delivery in the affected municipalities;
WHEREAS many Federal and Provincial funding programs are based on population;
WHEREAS many Alberta communities are affected by these funding inequities especially smaller communities;
WHEREAS the government has acknowledged in February 2016 that they would be interested in exploring options for enumerating the “shadow population” at the sub-provincial level and further investigation into other types of shadow populations.
Alberta attracts a significant number of people who spend extensive amounts of time in a municipality but declare their residence elsewhere (i.e. a “shadow population”). This can include those who are employed in a resource sector, spend time in a resort community, or are support workers for the tourism sector. Since shadow population is not reflected in official population counts, it is challenging to plan infrastructure and program service delivery in the affected municipalities, especially those with smaller resident populations and high numbers of transient people.
Since many Federal and Provincial funding programs are based on census numbers, these communities tend to be discriminated against when it comes to funding and therefore receive less funding. Current provisions in the Determination of Population Regulation only allow for enumeration of shadow populations during a very specific time-period, and only allows the inclusion of an individual if they stay longer than 30 days straight. This does not represent most shadow populations in Alberta communities and is difficult to verify in order to receive appropriate grant funding.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs confirmed that enumeration procedures would be updated as part of the review of the Determination of Population Regulation (DPR) so that municipalities could accurately measure their populations. The Minister also acknowledged the need to make related changes to the municipal census manual.
The proposed regulation posted by the province in July 2017 failed to account for a significant number of changes AUMA had recommended regarding shadow populations. AUMA provided detailed input on the issue in a September 2017 submission. Despite this input, no changes were introduced in the DPR approved on October 26, 2017.
On February 2, 2018 AUMA’s Board sent a letter Minister of Municipal Affairs expressing disappointment that no changes have been made to ensure that shadow populations are included in municipal funding programs and reiterating the need to make further amendments to the Determination of Population Regulation.
In follow-up the Municipal Governance Committee discussed this issue with representatives of Municipal Affairs (MA) during their June 2018 meeting. MA shared that:
- They have received pressure to entirely remove the municipal census process given that Alberta is the only province that officially recognizes it.
- They are limited in their ability to alter enumeration methods given the need to have data align with Statistics Canada
- There is need to ensure consistency and fairness between municipalities as increasing enumeration of shadow populations could be viewed unfavourably by municipalities with low or no shadow populations, given that it would have an impact on the amount available in per-capita funding programs.
MA noted that there is likely to be little appetite to re-open the Determination of Population Regulation for review, but that some concerns could potentially be addressed through further updates to the Municipal Census Manual. While the ministry released technical updates to the manual in January 2019, they indicate that they will likely consider broader policy iusses later this year.