Based on the historical statistics of the last 35 years, Castlegar is expected to experience an average of a 1.0% annual population growth during the next decade to reach approximately 7,700 people in year 2006. However, as the normal growth can be readily affected by a single event such as a closure or expansion of a local mill or smelter, as was the case of the early 90s with the Celgar expansion, the accuracy of the growth projection should not be considered completely dependable. The community's normal growth pattern may once again be affected by the Keenleyside Dam Power Plant project which has started in 1999.
Whenever such a project takes place, the community's inability to provide sufficient affordable housing opportunities may cause an increase in the number of non-conforming residential suites. Similarly, an inadequate supply of serviced commercial or industrial lands may chase away new developments to a neighbouring community.
The community's population growth also follows the trend of the entire province of BC, which has been affected by immigration and migration from within Canada. This trend is difficult to predict as it is largely influenced by the domestic, Asian and global economies. When the "baby boomer" age group begins to retire in the next decade, the Kootenays may become a favourite retirement location for those from the Prairies as well as the Lower Mainland. This could impact not only overall population growth but also the age distribution profile of our community. The gradual aging of population is a worldwide trend moving toward an age distribution where there are fewer working-age people. Historical demographic changes in the West Kootenays suggest these trends will be magnified locally. The size of the community's population participating in the labour force is projected to continue to grow in absolute numbers over time, but will decrease slightly in terms of the percentage of the overall population.
Recently, a number of commercial developments aiming at a broader regional market established themselves within the City. This means Castlegar is rapidly being recognized as a regional commercial hub and a major shopping destination. The effect of this "change of face" may encourage even faster growth than major construction projects.
As part of the broad growth strategy for Castlegar, the City supports community growth at a brisk, but manageable pace, and will facilitate residential, commercial and industrial facilities to be developed in an orderly and timely manner. Coordinated, orderly and harmonious growth of the community cannot be achieved by the actions of the City of Castlegar without support from the surrounding area and region. Acknowledging this reality, the City may, in conjunction with the electoral area of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, initiate an impact study for a boundary restructuring.