The city is hoping to build on the success of its online model for collecting population data when it launches its municipal census April 2.
St. Albert has traditionally performed a head count every other year. The local census comes approximately one year after Statistics Canada conducted the last federal census and three months since it released the first raft of population data.
“A municipal census this year is necessary as this federal census is a year old now, and the city asks different demographic questions that are important to St. Albert’s local needs,” said Travis Peter, census manager and corporate business manager for St. Albert.
The city decided to incorporate an online model the last time it conducted the municipal census and was surprised by its success. During the two-week window in which residents could complete the form on the web, approximately 40 per cent of residents responded. That window has now been extended to one month, with the city hoping 51 per cent or more of residents use the online tool.
“The census office believes that the timing and administrative process enhancements we’ve made contribute to even higher resident satisfaction,” Peter said. “The city encourages all residents to complete their census online.”
Households will receive a letter prior to April 1 with an access code that will enable them to use the online tool. On May 7, when the online window lapses, city-hired enumerators will hit the streets, knocking on the doors of residents who did not respond online.
Because of the high response rate on the web, the city will be using fewer enumerators — compared to the 60 used in 2010, only 30 will be hired this time. The total cost of conducting the census is approximately $100,000 but Mayor Nolan Crouse said increased provincial grant money based on the results will pay for the headcount.
“Provincial grant money is tied to the latest census and there’s always a one-year lag,” said Crouse. “It always pays for itself but if you’re in a $100-per-capita range, and we grow about 1,000 people a year, that’s $100,000 per year extra in grant money.
The census will officially conclude May 27. Initial results are expected in early June, according to Peter, with a more comprehensive breakdown being released in the fall.
Crouse said the provincial election, called Monday and running until April 23, could pose a challenge to the city’s efforts, but says the city will be aggressive in reaching as many people as possible.
“We’re going to go hard after this thing,” said Crouse. “We’re a bit of an experiment to some degree. The more people who fill out the census online, the cheaper the cost.”