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Whistlerites, like other Canadians, stand up to be counted on Tuesday, May 14 as part of the 1996 national census. When the final numbers are released next year they will mean, among other things, that Whistler will have to begin paying for its police force. The national census, taken every five years, is used to determine population figures for towns, regions and provinces, and that in turn often determines levels of provincial or federal funding for things like social services, infrastructure and policing. In British Columbia, the province covers the cost of RCMP services in a town of less than 5,000 people. Whistler’s population at the last census was about 4,600 and has grown considerably since then. Anticipating it would have to pay for its police service by 1997, the municipality began examining its options last year. A municipal police force was considered but continuing with RCMP service is generally favoured. Negotiations on a policing agreement are underway. A bone of contention with Whistler has long been that the census is taken in the spring, when the local population is at or near its lowest level of the year. Not only does the local population increase substantially for the summer and winter months, but this year an influx of new families is expected over the summer, due to the opening of the Whistler high school in September. School officials have asked that any students expecting to go to school in Whistler in September let them know well ahead of time. Census representatives began delivering questionnaires to households on May 6. Eighty per cent of households will receive the census short questionnaire, which has seven questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete. The long questionnaire is delivered to one in five households and takes about 25 minutes to complete. The questionnaires are to be mailed to Statistics Canada on May 14.

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