Pembertonians apprehensive about census

Village may not be getting accurate demographic picture

July 28, 2010

By Jesse Ferreras, Pique Newsmagazine

The Village of Pemberton wants to take stock of how its population is growing but is facing resistance from several residents who don’t want to reveal who or how many people live in their houses.

In early June the village commissioned a $3,500 community census that would be used to gauge how its population is changing. The aim of the survey was to identify the “character of Pemberton residents,” querying them on where they live, what kinds of dwellings they live in and how long they’ve been in town.

Stephanie Coughlin, formerly the chair of Pemberton’s Spirit of B.C. committee, was commissioned to spearhead the study and in two weeks of visiting homes and explaining the survey she encountered considerable resistance from residents who didn’t want to reveal whether they had suites in their homes.

“When I met with many of the homeowners, they either didn’t have a suite or didn’t want to tell me about their suite or it was unoccupied at this particular time,” she told council at its July 20 meeting. “So that was information that was not wanted to be revealed, that’s the tricky thing.”

It’s a “tricky thing” because that reticence could get in the way of Pemberton getting an accurate number of how many people live within its boundaries. If people don’t disclose whether they have suites, they also don’t disclose how many people live in those suites.

Coughlin went on to say that she encountered “lots of resistance” from residents in the Plateau area. They felt that the census provided the village with “too much information” and that officials would come to their houses and inspect their suites.

“People did not want to share information about their suites,” she said. “Many times that I went knocking on suites or left censuses at suites, they were not returned, or people wanted to answer on behalf of the people living in their suites.”

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy found it disappointing that people did not want to partake in the survey out of fear of reprisal from Pemberton officials.

“I’m a bit surprised at the reticence myself,” he said. “We all tried to emphasize that this is really about getting quality numbers for quality planning and it’s not about enforcement or anything punitive.

“It’s really about understanding what really is going on in the community so that we can make better decisions, as well as informing other people of things. Other organizations such as the school district would very much like to know better what the age of the population is so that they can understand that in three years they’ll have to have X amount of spaces for Kindergarten, or whatever it happens to be.”

Asked what impact the reticence will have on the accuracy of the census data, Sturdy said he’s not sure the village can have faith in the results.

“We’re going to have to look at it and make some assumptions and decisions as to whether the information we’ve received is information that accurately reflects the community or not. And if it doesn’t, well we wasted our money.”

A preliminary report into the census showed that 537 households have completed the survey. Of those respondents, 77.4 per cent own their home. There are approximately 2.7 persons per household, for an estimated 1,452 people.

The demographics show 8.9 per cent of the population is between 0 and four years of age, while almost 30 per cent of respondents were between 30 and 39 years.

Just over one-third, 34.2 per cent, of respondents indicated that they planned to leave in five years. However, Coughlin said at the meeting that a number of those people did not have a specific idea of when they want to leave.

“It could be never, they really didn’t know,” she said.

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About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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