"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Population observation (I)

The idea has lately gotten abroad that “most” or “the bulk” of the provincial population lives in St. John’s, or, in a slight variant, on the Avalon Peninsula.

Take, for instance, Lorraine Michael, during her opposition leaders’ show on CBC Crosstalk the other week, near the end of the show:

The majority of people, a large majority, live on the Avalon Peninsula.
With respect to Ms. Michael – and unlike some people, this corner certainly believes she is worthy of respect – this is wrong. A popular belief, but wrong.

Or take Dennis O’Keefe’s statement in a June 3, 2005, Telegram story concerning fundraising for the Janeway Hospital:

We're going to the prime beneficiaries of the Janeway Children's Hospital, and that would be St. John's and surrounding communities, which house probably half the population of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Again, BZZT. Wrong.

According to the 2006 census, the City of St. John’s itself (the dark blue blob on the map; click to embiggen) had a population of 100,646, out of the provincial total of 505,469. Half the population? Not even close: the City of St. John’s didn’t quite make up 20% of the province in 2006 (though it does by now, as the 2011 census will show.)

Of course, the City of St. John’s is really only one part of a larger conurbation, or Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). The CMA includes adjacent dormitory suburbs and industrial areas which form an integrated commuter-shed, and share other economic indicators which make the area an economic and demographic unit, political boundaries aside. (This is the middling blue blob on the map, plus St. John’s.) The St. John’s CMA – St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, CBS, and other neighbouring suburban and exurban communities – had a 2006 census population of 181,113. That’s just under 36% of the province as a whole.

Well, if not St. John’s City, and if not the St. John’s metro area, then surely the Avalon Peninsula – or, as some people put it, confusing the traffic viaduct in west end of St. John’s with the natural isthmus near Come by Chance, “inside the overpass” – has half the provincial population?

Nope. Well, not quite, at least not yet, officially. Census Division 1, shown here in light blue, including the St. John’s CMA above, corresponds pretty well exactly with the popular notion of “Avalon Peninsula”. In 2006, CD1 had a population of 248,418, or 49.1% of the provincial total: not even a bare majority, let alone a large one.

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