I love the urbanity of Lethbridge

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had several discussions with others about whether Lethbridge is urban.
Actually, discussion might be pushing it since most of the conversation was me pointing out logically (using actual definitions) on how Lethbridge qualifies as urban and most responses opposing my point based on subjective opinions on what qualifies as urban. Or more specifically, why Lethbridge is rural.
Let’s get a few things straight.
Statistics Canada, the federal government agency responsible for compiling data on Canada’s population, resources, economy, society, and culture, defines urban as the following:

An urban area has a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre, based on the current census population count. . . .
Urban population includes all population living in the urban cores, secondary urban cores and urban fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations(CAs) . . .

According to Statistics Canada’s federal census last year, Lethbridge’s population was 83,517 and its size was 122.36 square kilometres, putting it population density at 682.6 persons per square kilometre.
Lethbridge’s annual municipal census is always large because it includes postsecondary students whose parents don’t live in Lethbridge, which the federal census doesn’t include. Last year’s municipal census came in at 87,882, putting population density at 718.2 persons per square kilometre.
Furthermore, for several decades, Lethbridge has qualified as a census agglomeration, which a smaller version of a census metropolitan area. Statistics Canada defines census agglomeration as the following:

CA must have an urban core population of at least 10,000. To be included in the . . . CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban area, as measured by commuting flows derived from census place of work data

To graduate to a census metropolitan area, the CA needs to have a population of over 100,000 people and at least 50,000 of them must live in the urban core. In the 2011 census, the Lethbridge Census Agglomeration population finally surpassed 100,000, and as I pointed out earlier, more than 50,000 people live in Lethbridge. Lethbridge now qualifies as a CMA based on StatCan’s definition, but it will be awhile before the change is officially made.
In the 2006 census (2011 figures haven’t been released for these data), Lethbridge had a workforce of 50,425 persons. The 2005–2006 business investment profile published by Economic Development Lethbridge indicated that when you consider all the people who commute to Lethbridge from within a 100 kilometre radius, that number actually increases to 86,000, suggesting over 36,000 people commute to Lethbridge from outlying communities.
Interestingly enough, Statistics Canada felt the term “urban” was too subjective, so they replaced it with the term “population centre” last year. Population centres are classified as small (pop. 1,000 to 29,999), medium (pop. 30,000 to 99,999), and large (pop. over 100,000). With the urban statistics released last year, Lethbridge qualifies as a large population centre.
Given all that, why are people still so insistent that Lethbridge is some sort of hick town, and not a urban city with a diverse economy, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, an impressive built environment, and a university and college?

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

4 replies on “I love the urbanity of Lethbridge”

Because Lethbridge doesn’t know how to market itself. It might have vibrant arts, but how often to you hear things advertised? How much is spent on PR for the city of Lethbridge? Not a whole lot, in my opinion, and Lethbridge will move itself out of rural and into urban when it learns how to promote — REALLY promote — events going on.

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