The land area of Powell River (including the City, the Regional District north and south, the Tla’amin lands and Texada Island) is 5,245.5 km2 (524,550 hectares)—about 0.6% of the total land area in BC.
Powell River combines the attributes of a resource town, a tourist destination and an increasingly diverse community. The principal economic influences include retail trade, health care, education, the paper mill, forestry-related activities and tourism. New economies, including agricultural ventures, international education and cultural undertakings, have started to emerge as important contenders. Newcomers are attracted by the abundance of recreation and outdoor opportunities, the remote coastal lifestyle, diverse cultural amenities, affordable housing and the prospect of relaxed retirement living.
Powell River’s total population was estimated at 19,921 as of 2014, 0.43% of the total population of the province. This number shows only minimal growth since 1986. Between 1996 and 2014, the population remained fairly constant, while BC’s population grew approximately 1% per year.
The 2011 Vital Signs report noted that there are differing assessments of whether Powell River was poised to grow or to shrink. This difference still exists, but has switched directions. BC Statistics had previously projected that the area’s population would steadily decline from its 2011 levels, decreasing by more than 400 people in the following 10 years and by more than 800 people in 25 years. However, updated BC Stats population projections show an increase of over 1800 people in the next 10 years, and over 4000 more people by 2040.
In 2008 the Regional District commissioned a regional growth and development analysis that used much of the BC Statistics data, but instead predicted a population increase of 2,085 people by 2028 as a result of migration to the region of working-age people and their families and of a larger number of retirees.
An updated set of population projections commissioned by the Regional District in 2012 estimated that population would increase by 83 people from 2016 to 2026, but decrease by nearly 1600 people from 2016 to 2041.
The populations of Canada and of BC are aging, so it’s no surprise that Powell River is also maturing. Baby boomers—those born between 1947 and 1966— currently comprise the largest population sector in Powell River. In fact, in 2011, Powell River had the 9th largest percentage of people 65-and-over in Canada.
In 2012, the first wave of the boomer generation turned 65. Powell River is growing older faster than national and provincial averages. The proportion of seniors grew from 16.1% in 2001, to 21.6% in 2010 and to 25.5% in 2014. By comparison, in 2014, seniors made up only 15.7% of the population across Canada and 17.0% of the population of British Columbia.
Our population’s share of youth (under 15) was 13.1% in 2014, up 0.5 percentage points from 12.6% in 2010, but still down 4.5 percentage points from the 2001 levels (17.6%). That puts our proportion of youth lower than both the national average of 16% and the provincial average of 14.6%.
The working age population supports a growing number of aging dependents and fewer children. As of 2014, Powell River residents had 2.14 children (0-14) for every 10 people of working age, down from 2.67 in 2011 and 3.16 in 2006. Elder dependents (65 and older) increased from 3.19 for every 10 working age residents in 2006, to 3.65 in 2011 and again to 4.16 in 2014. It is anticipated that by 2036, we will have 13.4 dependents—primarily seniors—for every 10 working age people. Between 2001 and 2011, Powell River’s median age— the age at which half the population is younger and half is older—increased 8.1 years, from 42.5 to 50.6, putting it higher than both the national median age of 40.6 years and the provincial median age of 41.9. Migration away by young adults and the attraction of Powell River as a retirement destination are among the likely explanations of why the local population has been aging faster than the BC average.
In April 2016, the Tla’amin Nation will assume full control of its land and governance. See An Historic Time for the Tla’amin Nation for additional details and information.