British Columbia

The population of this city in busy Metro Vancouver barely changed since 2016, census data shows. Why is that?

Port Moody has long held the nickname “city of the arts,” but census data released Wednesday paints a picture of a community that is not growing.

Port Moody councillor says more housing has been approved in city — but much is yet to be built

A number of people in a park next to a community centre.
Rocky Point Park playground in Port Moody pictured in summer 2020. Port Moody is the only city in Metro Vancouver that saw its population shrink, according to 2021 census data. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Port Moody has long held the nickname "city of the arts," but census data released Wednesday paints a picture of a community that is not growing.

The 2021 census found Port Moody is the only Metro Vancouver municipality that did not grow its population since 2016. In fact, it has 16 fewer people than reported in the 2016 census.

Port Moody Coun. Meghan Lahti says this is a reflection of past councils' decision to not build more housing without SkyTrain service in the city. 

Port Moody, according to the census data, has seen the fourth-lowest growth of new private dwellings in Metro Vancouver since 2016. Only West Vancouver, Lions Bay and Belcarra have seen less growth on this metric.

Lahti says the current council has approved more housing than the past two combined, but much of it is yet to be built.

"So I think that while it looks like we haven't been growing, I think that the numbers will be higher by the next census," Lahti said.

"That is a reflection of the amount of pressure that's being put on us because of the housing crisis, as well as our obligation because of the fact that we have SkyTrain to build those denser, more environmentally friendly developments."

She says it's a myth that council is anti-development but blames "rhetoric" from some on council for creating that impression.

Leslie Courchesne, CEO of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, says the lack of population growth is a concern for businesses, but population alone is not the whole story.

"Port Moody … may not be growing in population, but it's certainly growing in popularity for local businesses," Courchesne said, adding many rely on the SkyTrain to bring in patrons from other cities.

"I will say the current city council, the mayor, did run on a platform of slowing the pace of development … so they seem to have succeeded in their goal," she said.

"I do expect the population of Port Moody to grow at a slower pace over the next few years."

Courchesne says she's aware of more developments coming which should increase the population and provide new business opportunities.

Mayor Rob Vagramov said the census is a lagging indicator.

"Looking to the Census to understand what's going on with a city's growth is like only looking out your rearview mirror while driving on the freeway," Vagaramov said in a statement 

"It's interesting to see the effects of decisions made in previous administrations, but offers little insight into what's planned for the future. Port Moody's growth is just now revving up and is set to exceed targets, which has many of us concerned."

He said council is approving "almost all" projects that come before it and the city's current official community plan calls for the population to increase by an additional 50 per cent by 2041.

He added work is being done to consult the public on growth in the city and update the community plan.


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