Last week the City released its Strategic Plan for the next three years. In that plan they suggest the population is going to grow from a population of 15,500 to 25,000 by 2025. Unbelievable!
We have grown by about 550 people from 2006 to 2011, or about 100 people per year, and now they believe we will have sustained growth of 900 people per year for the next 11 years.
Here are the Census numbers from 1971 to 2011 for our City: 1971 - 15,415; 1981 - 14,747; 1991 - 14,815; 2001 - 14,821; 2011 - 15,503.
As you can see we have grown by 112 people in 40 years since 1971. Is this the tremendous growth we have been hearing about for the past 10 years? At the time of the last census, the provincial population had grown by 6.7 per cent from the previous census in 2006. Our city grew by 3.7 per cent amongst the lowest of Saskatchewan cities. We have to participated in the provincial growth for the past number of years. What is going to change that will cause us to grow at an 850 per cent higher growth rate than in the past?
I have been trying to future out how the City arrived at these numbers and have come up with three possible scenarios:
1) 25 by 25 sounded like a cute catch phrase.
2) They actually believed they could achier these numbers.
3) They thought they needed these projections in order to justify the building of the proposed new Multi-Use Facility.
If any of these reasons are even close to being correct, it does not lend a whole lot of credibility to our council.
There seems to be a feeling that we need to build new facilities to attract people to our City. I would suggest that we will get many more people to relocate to Swift Current if we can provide the opportunity of a well paying job. If we wish to build these projects, why not wait until our tax base has grown first and if we can afford the project then take a look. I hope we haven't developed the "build it and they will come" attitude, as that only works in the movies.
Our Business Development Department has been spending about $500,000 yearly to bring new industry to the City. One would be hard pressed to think of any new industries with significant employee numbers that have relocated to, or started up in our City in the last 10 years as a result of the efforts of our City.
Looking back at the history of Swift Current there is only one 10 year period where we had growth approaching the numbers the city is projecting. That was the period when the City became insolvent and the Province had to take over our finances. At that time we could not write a cheque any larger than $50 without provincial approval. The biggest reason for becoming insolvent at that time was that the City could not afford the costs of land assembly, new streets and sidewalks and sewer and water installations associated with that growth. Those costs are extremely high and much of those costs are not recouped until many years later. So even if we could achieve the population numbers as suggested, the upfront infrastructure costs would be prohibitive.
To sum up, any organization certainly needs a plan with goals and objectives. The plan needs to spell out what that organization wishes to achieve and how to reach those goals. In order for that plan to be successful, however, the goals must be reasonably achievable. The plan for the City may have some good ideas included in it, but those ideas get totally lost because of the ridiculous population numbers that are the basis for the rest of the plan.
Don Robinson - Swift Current