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Calgary looks to scrap census in 2021

Calgary houses pictured on April 2, 2019. The city has launched 2019's online census.
Calgary houses pictured on April 2, 2019. The city has launched 2019's online census. Global News

A push is underway to cancel next year’s civic census in Calgary, but not without concern from some city councillors.

The City of Calgary has conducted an annual census since 1958. The information from the census has been used for planning purposes, as well as a way to receive more funding from the provincial government.

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With the city continually growing, per capita grants from the province have always increased. However, the UCP government has indicated the grants will no longer be tied to the annual civic census.

At the city’s priorities and finance committee on Tuesday, councillors were told Statistics Canada is asking the city not to hold a census in 2021, springing from concerns about the confusion that occurred in 2016.

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“Having the back-to-back censuses impacted the feds,” Laura Kennedy, Calgary’s chief returning officer, said Tuesday.

“We did our census earlier. We started in the middle of March and we were off the street by the end of May, and their census began at the beginning of May.

“When people received their federal census packages, they believed they had already done it by doing ours first.”

Councillors are concerned about how quickly the federal numbers would be available and, with a municipal election in 2021, they’re concerned about an up-to-date enumeration list.

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However, Kennedy says the city now relies on Elections Alberta for the voters list as the province has access to a lot more information than the city does.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi would like to see the city continue with the annual census.

“We need good data. We need the data to plan our city, to think about when we make decisions around, for example, new communities. We need to know where and how people are living.”

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On Feb. 3, city council will be asked to hold a civic census in 2020 and 2022 but skip 2021, with administration saying they will have an update on the value of an annual census in the fourth quarter of 2022.

The city will save $800,000 by not holding a census next year.