REGINA — Regina and Saskatoon continue to be in the group of cities leading growth.
According to Statistics Canada data from July, for a third consecutive year, the four fastest growing census metroplitation areas (CMAs) were in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s two largest cities are also leaders in terms of migration and age.
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers and what they mean for the changing cities of Regina and Saskatoon:
The rate of Saskatoon’s growth between 2013 and 2014 is good enough for third place among Canadian CMAs, trailing Calgary (3.6 per cent) and Edmonton (3.3 per cent). The jump brings the Saskatoon area’s population just over the 300,000 mark.
“(The) statement I have heard — on many occassions, all over the world — is ‘I want to move to move to this particular community because I heard they’re very successful and perhaps I can become just as successful as they are,’ ” said Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison on Wednesday.
He cited the city’s diversified economy as the root of that kind of success, mentioning agriculture, various mining operations and research, among many other sectors.
He recognizes the continued growth comes with challenges, and he identified housing as an exceedingly important issue.
“When you have good, clean (and) safe housing for people to live in, for their families, they feel safe and secure then,” said Atchison. “In most cases, that means that they’re going to send their children to school, they have better educations and (that) leads to better jobs.”
Regina’s growth rate follows behind that of its sister city to the north, sitting fourth nationally. During the same period (July 1, 2013-July 1,2014), all CMAs had an average growth rate of 1.4 per cent. The increase brings the Regina area’s population up to 237,758.
For Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, the numbers confirm what he has already seen.
“It’s good news for us, but not surprising,” Fougere said.
He said the increasing population shows Regina is an attractive destination for many reasons, including business opportunities and family unification.
Fougere said a couple of years ago, the city’s housing wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the continuous growth.
“The market has adjusted to the need, so I think that the housing is available,” Fougere said. “We could do more, yes, no question, because we’re still growing as a city. But we’re responding to it in a way that I think is very positive.”
He said Regina being the home of Canada’s lowest unemployment rate is another sign of a strong, healthy economy ready to manage the growth.
Saskatoon’s median age of citizens is the lowest of all CMAs. More than 70 per cent of Saskatoon’s population are between the ages of 15 to 64. Over the past decade, the proportion of persons aged 65 years and older increased in every CMA except Saskatoon, where it remained stable at 11.7 per cent.
Atchison said a young population presents a unique set of challenges.
He cited a statistic from the Saskatoon and District Chamber of Commerce that suggests Saskatoon must provide 8,000 new jobs on an annual basis for those that are graduating from high school and university. He commended the provincial government’s graduate retention program as motivating young people to stay in the province.
“We don’t want to turn the clock back,” Atchison said, referring to the days when graduates would leave en masse.
Regina’s population of people ages zero to 14 is 17.6 per cent, 0.1 per cent higher than Saskatoon’s and a whole percentage point higher in terms of the percentage of those 65 years and older. A median age for Regina was not available.
Regina’s rate of international migration growth was the highest of CMAs with fewer than one-million inhabitants.
Fougere said the city is very proud of the number of new Canadians that make Regina their home.
“We’re on the radar screen for around the world, as we should be and always should’ve been, and now people are coming to understand their opportunities in Regina and in Saskatchewan,” he said.
Fougere said the growing newcomer population changes the face and texture of the city and how Regina presents itself to the rest of the world. But this reputation hasn’t been a quick development. Fougere believes this change has been a decade in the making.
“The strong economic growth and the quality of life here, people have heard about that,” Fougere said. “People who move here tell their friends and relatives in their home country, and they, in turn, take a look at us as well