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District of Muskoka asks for seasonal resident census

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The District of Muskoka is asking Statistics Canada to do a census of seasonal residents.

The ask was approved at the district’s Community and Planning Services Committee meeting Thursday. 

Lisa Marden, Muskoka’s Director of Planning, told committee that a census of second-home residents would “be of considerable benefit to both Muskoka and other municipalities across Canada who have significant seasonal populations.”

According to a staff report, census data is used “as a source of population and dwelling counts for a variety of municipal projects and programs.” For example, Marden said, a lack of accurate numbers makes it hard to predict how many people would sign up for swimming lessons or other recreational programs.

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“We’ve heard rumblings of it starting to affect that type of service level, but nothing immediate. I think it’s something that we need to watch, and we need to work with area municipalities,” said Marden. “Just to keep abreast of and make sure we are providing an adequate level of service for our residents.”

It comes as the number of permanent residents in Muskoka grew by 10 per cent between the 2016 census and 2021 census. 

While all six lower-tier municipalities grew more than projected, townships saw the biggest proportional growth, with Muskoka Lakes growing by 16.2 per cent, Lake of Bays by 18.7 per cent, and Georgian Bay by 36.5 per cent.

“This is a shift from previous years, where the townships typically saw minimal to negative growth in the permanent population,” said Marden. “We have also experienced a significant rate of seasonal to permanent dwelling conversion. Anecdotally, this data corresponds with the anticipated effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in demand for real estate outside the Greater Toronto Area.”

The ask will be forwarded to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Phillippe Champagne; Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison; Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark; the Association of Municipalities of Ontario; the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and “other municipalities across Canada with significant seasonal populations.”

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