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Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said taxes must be kept in check. (CBC News)

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said the city's falling population comes as no surprise and sounded optimistic about the future when addressing the numbers.

"We all know down here we’ve been experiencing tough economic times. We’re transitioning out of those tough economic times," Francis said.

New census data shows the population of the metropolitan area of Windsor fell below the national growth rate over the last five years, a period of time that saw the country spiral into the most serious economic tailspin since the Great Depression.

Statistics Canada released the first batch of numbers from the 2011 census on Wednesday and the population of what the government agency refers to as the census metropolitan area of Windsor decreased by 1.3 per cent since the last census in 2006.

When the 2011 census was taken last May 10, the population of the census metropolitan area of Windsor was 319,246, compared with 323,342 from the 2006 census. The population of the actual city of Windsor was 210,891 down from 216,473 in 2006. 

The Windsor area's growth rate was below the national growth rate of 5.9 per cent, while the population of Ontario increased by 5.7 per cent.

Francis said the decrease in population reaffirms council's decision to hold the line on taxes. He said keeping taxes in check isn't just something that sounds good, it's a necessity to compete with other communities.

"We continue to strive to be the most affordable and attractive community," Francis said. "Council's on the right path."

Francis seems optimistic about the future.

"For the first time in four years, we have positive assessment growth. That means we have revenue coming in and that indicates the numbers are reversing," Francis said.

He said the census numbers released Wednesday lag behind the real-time population numbers.

"These numbers are a snapshot," Francis said of the census. "I expect the next set of numbers to come out will be a positive set."

Census metropolitan areas do not conform to established municipal boundaries. Statistics Canada defines them as a metropolitan area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people.

Commuting patterns and other factors are used in determining these census metropolitan areas. Looking at metropolitan areas this way takes in to account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada's largest cities.

Canada's population on census day was 33,476,688, Statistics Canada reported.

The census indicated that Windsor ranked No. 16 among the country's 33 census metropolitan areas.

Neighbouring communities growing

Locally, Lakeshore and LaSalle grew, up 3.9 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya said the increase gives his community "bragging rights" and is a nod to council's decision to move forward on projects like the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Complex.  He said something council discusses is how to make the town attractive to those looking for a place to call home. 

Here is a local breakdown of census population information for communities in the Windsor region:  

Community

2011

2006

% Change

Windsor210,891216,473     -2.6
Leamington 28,403 28,833-1.5
Kingsville21,36220,9082.2
Amherstburg21,55621,748-0.9
LaSalle28,64327,6523.6
Tecumseh23,610 24,224-2.5
Lakeshore34,54633,2453.9
Pelee171287-40.4

At the national level, the 2011 census showed Canada's population grew the fastest of the G8 countries over the last five years — ahead of the United States (4.4 per cent), the United Kingdom (3.5 per cent), Italy (3.2 per cent), France (2.8 per cent), Russia (0.1 per cent), Japan (no change) and Germany (which had a population decrease of 0.8 per cent).

The national census is conducted every five years. The information published Wednesday is the first of several releases of data to come from Statistics Canada over the next year and longer that will eventually paint a detailed picture of the country, right down to the local level — including age breakdowns of the population, family makeup, languages spoken, immigration and ethnic origin, the level of education attained and income earned.