Saanich continues to be Vancouver Island’s largest community, but the latest census figures show the pace of growth in the district is far below other communities in the Capital Region.
Saanich’s population reached 114,148 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada figures, a four per cent increase from the 109,752 recorded in the 2011 census. While the rate of growth is comparable to the 5.6 per cent seen by the province as a whole, it’s far below the pace of the region as a whole.
That hardly comes as a surprise. The Capital Region was the eighth fastest growing census metropolitan area in the country and the only one to grow at a faster rate between 2011 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2011. Langford led the way with a 20.9 per cent increase in its population, followed by Sooke at 13.7 per cent and View Royal at 10.9 per cent. Victoria’s population climbed 7.2 per cent, going from 80,017 in 2011 to 85,792 today.
What this means is a steady structural shift for the Capital Regional District, where the western communities will become home for a growing share of the population. The bright side will mean that Saanich’s funding share of regional initiatives will slowly decline. The downside is the CRD will have to invest in infrastructure to accommodate the growing demand on the West Shore, with those communities steadily gaining influence on the regional board.
In more general terms, the census figures reveal Vancouver and Victoria as the twin engines driving provincial growth, with Greater Vancouver and the Capital Region accounting for about 70 per cent of B.C.’s population growth. Not coincidentally, those regions are the province’s least affordable. That shows the issue represents more than a regional challenge, as the province needs to find a way to address the affordability crisis or encourage growth in other regions to reduce the strain on its main population centres.