Whistler has been the fastest growing municipality in B.C. for the last couple of years, but in the provincial government’s eyes it may be growing faster than ever. According to BC Stats’ estimates released last week, Whistler’s permanent population is now nearly 9,200 — up 8.6 per cent from the 1997 figure of 8,466. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is again the fastest growing regional district in the province, with population increasing 3.8 per cent — almost triple the provincial average — to 35,374 this year. And Pemberton is again the fastest growing centre with a population under 5,000, growing 14.7 per cent to 1,357 in 1998. But the provincial estimates are based on a formula, and Kim Needham of the Whistler Planning Department isn’t sure the formula is accurate when applied to Whistler. "We’ve found that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work here," Needham says. "We’ve been telling people our population is about 8,700." The provincial formula estimates municipal populations through a model it has developed over the past 18 years. The model uses indicators such as residential electrical connections and Old Age Security data. But Needham says the only way to really determine a town’s population is to do a census. Regardless of whether the municipality’s estimate or the province’s estimate is more accurate, Whistler’s population has nearly doubled since 1991. Within the SLRD, Squamish’s population grew by 1.9 per cent between 1997 and 1998, to an estimated 15,381. Lillooet’s population declined .8 per cent, to 3,023. Overall, B.C.’s population grew by 1.3 per cent between July 1, 1997 and the same date this year, despite declines in the populations of many resource-dependent towns.