While Timmins' population dropped in the 2021 census, Mayor George Pirie is "reasonably confident" that next time it's done the population will be higher.
Activity in the mining sector, a focus on agriculture and immigration are some of the reasons for his optimism.
Yesterday, Statistics Canada released the first round of data from the 2021 census.
In Timmins, there has been a 1.5 per cent drop in population compared to the 2016 census. The 2021 population was 41,145 people, compared to 41,788 in 2016.
In the last decade, the population has declined by over 2,000 people (4.6 per cent). Timmins' population peaked in the mid-'90s when there were over 47,000 people in the city.
Anecdotally, Pirie said the lowest population was probably around 2018-19.
“I think we’ve rebounded from the absolutely lowest. Having said that, we have a long way to come back,” he said.
In the resource sector, a real turning point for Pirie was in 2019 when IAMGOLD's Côté Gold Project was announced. He said Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake Gold's Detour Lake has a "tremendous future" and pointed to Galleon, GoWest and the continual positive announcements from Canada Nickel as good news as well. At Glencore's Kidd Mine, he said the next significant point will be later this year with the results of its feasibility study.
“We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire that will see us well past this portion of our history. We’re going very aggressively on the rare earth and the battery economy. We’ve got a very aggressive proposal in front of the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network, we’re actively involved with that to see that we’ll be the north’s innovation centre here in Timmins," he said.
"We’re looking at the future and I’m reasonably confident that the next census … you’ll see us well along the line with a higher population."
Agriculture and the amount of arable land in the region are other key factors for Pirie.
In the coming weeks, he said there will be a formal announcement about funding for an agriculture study.
"And I think that that presents a totally different future for the opportunities for diversifying our economy,” he said.
Other encouraging signs are the number of lots the city has sold at its industrial park on McBride, expanding the rail park on Hallnor Road, and two large service centre industry projects on Highway 101 West.
“There’s a lot of things going on that encourage me that things are on the upswing,” he said.
The 2021 Census data is being released in waves from now until November.
Details on immigration are expected to be revealed in October.
Pirie said the immigration numbers locally are robust and growing. He expects it will have a positive impact on the population.
To attract people, he said the city has to market itself better.
“We can always do more, we can always be better at anything that we want to do,” he said.
Yesterday, the Timmins Economic Development Corporation announced its new website, MoveToTimmins.ca. It's part of a greater marketing plan being promoted under the Time for Timmins tagline, which highlights its lower cost of living, lower housing costs, and enhanced quality of life.
As for how to get people to stay here, he pointed to having lots of room, fresh air and fresh water.
“They love it here, they’ve got something here in Timmins that they don’t have elsewhere," said Pirie.
He said the city is also working to address concerns of the aging population and provide opportunities for younger people. One of the recent achievements on this is the city recently approving an update to the recreation master plan.