The city of Lethbridge is officially a census metropolitan area. It is the fifth-fastest growing city in the country, growing at a rate of 10.8 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
The upgrade in status is exciting news for the city.
“In a good year, we grow by two per cent and in a bad year we grow by two per cent,” Mayor Chris Spearman said. “I think that’s great for investors that we have rock-solid growth and I think it’s important for our city in terms of planning for infrastructure going forward into the future.
“We don’t have excessive growth but we can expect a certain level of growth and plan accordingly.”
The status now means surrounding towns and rural areas are added into the census collection data for Lethbridge, putting the total population at 117,394.
That total includes eight rural areas including Coaldale, Coalhurst, Nobleford and Picture Butte.
The official population of just the city of Lethbridge is pegged at 92,729.
Spearman said the steady growth is mainly thanks to young families continuing to settle in the city.
“Projects like the Henderson pool and the leisure centre will certainly be of interest to young families,” Spearman said.
“Having the second-largest leisure centre in Alberta is certainly going to be a magnet for growth in the future.”
Economic Development Lethbridge believes the designation could mean better planning for the future.
“Moving forward, this can actually be really helpful for us in terms of data and tracking trends over time,” said Jaylene Ulmer, the organization’s director of marketing and communications. “We anticipate being able to access data that’s very Lethbridge-specific that we maybe have not been able to get a hold of in the past.”
As the city continues to grow, Spearman said infrastructure will be top of mind. The new numbers will also help the city as it continues to plan its next Capital Improvement Plan.
“We want to continue to impress on the federal and provincial governments that investing in the City of Lethbridge supports their goals of economic diversification and job creation,” Spearman said. “We look after infrastructure and the money that goes into our infrastructure supports future growth.”