Lethbridge population hits 100K, overtakes Red Deer as 3rd largest city in Alberta
City's population grows between 1.5 and 2% every year
Lethbridge has overtaken Red Deer — by about 500 residents — to become the third largest city in Alberta.
The southern city has surpassed the 100,000 population mark.
"We've reached a major milestone in our city's history," Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman told the Calgary Eyeopener.
Lethbridge's latest municipal census reveals it's home to 101, 482 Albertans.
On average, its population grows between 1.5 and two per cent every year.
The 2019 Census results are in... <br>🥁 please.... <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Census2019?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Census2019</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yql?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yql</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/100kstrong?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#100kstrong</a> 🥳💯 <a href="https://t.co/dRYT7NmlNB">pic.twitter.com/dRYT7NmlNB</a>—@LethbridgeCity
The mayor attributes the city's steady growth to its diversified economy.
"We're probably the only city in Alberta that doesn't depend on oil and gas as the source of our economy," he said. "Our economy is more diversified and largely based on agriculture."
New size, new struggles
While it's a time for celebration, Spearman said he wants to ensure residents recognize they live in a growing city and their home is facing new challenges.
He said Lethbridge needs to focus on economic development and future growth, starting with the city's purchase of the Lethbridge Airport.
The city also needs to continue to work alongside other mid-sized and small cities in the province to get the recognition and resources they deserve, Spearman said.
"Cities across Western Canada are challenged by a drug crisis but in the city of Lethbridge, all we have is a supervised consumption site," he said, adding that his city needs to work with others like Red Deer to lobby for services such as detox facilities and long-term treatment centres.
No hard feelings
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said there are no hard feelings as she expected Lethbridge would surpass her city sooner or later due to the energy sector's struggles amid a provincial recession.
"Red Deer and Lethbridge have a long history of actually vacillating between third and fourth position," Veer said.
She said Red Deer's growth experiences booms — increases as much as five per cent — and busts. In 2016, the city's population decreased one per cent, falling under 100,000.
The city lost residents during the peak of the recession, Veer said, when Red Deer's unemployment rate was at 10 per cent.
However, Veer said, she's hopeful about the future since the city's college is on a path to become a university.
"That won't solve every issue, but it will certainly help diversify our local economy," Veer said.
Lethbridge also wants to encourage its post-secondary students to stay put in the city.
The city's goal is to retain at least 20 per cent of its college and university graduates.
"We want to create opportunities in our cities and we want to retain our graduates, and make sure our cities are great for young families and great for young people," Spearman said.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.