© Image special to The Guardian from Employment and Social Development Canada
Beginning October 2014, Prince Edward Island will be divided into two EI regions — a capital region and a non-capital region.
Up until a few weeks ago many Islanders might not have heard of the term census agglomeration but for those getting employment insurance benefits it will soon become very important.
The federal government plans to use the Charlottetown census agglomeration as the basis for splitting P.E.I. into two regions in order to determine the number of hours needed to collect EI and how long recipients will be able to collect benefits.
How the province is being split has become a subject for debate with the Charlottetown census agglomeration making up one region and the rest of P.E.I. making up the other.
The idea is to give increased EI benefits to Islanders who live in higher unemployment areas outside of the Charlottetown census agglomeration.
Statistics Canada spokesman Peter Murphy said a census agglomeration is a type of geography that Statistics Canada uses to circulate its data.
It gives users one way of comparing data for areas of similar sizes, he said.
"In other words we produce these geographies for the purposes of statistical analysis."
There are several rules that define a census agglomeration, but they start with a core that has a population of at least 10,000 people.
In P.E.I.'s case, that means there are census agglomerations in the Charlottetown and Summerside areas.
The Charlottetown census agglomeration extends beyond the city's borders into neighbouring communities, but a look at a map shows the boundaries aren't uniform as they extend outward from the city.
One section juts northward with a swath of land between it and the census agglomeration falling outside of the boundaries.
Murphy said Statistics Canada uses place of work data as one way of determining if some communities fall within the census agglomeration.
If 50 per cent or more of the population in that community work in the core, then it is added to the agglomeration.
That's why a community like Mayfield, which is near the outer limit of the census agglomeration, is included, but a place like Hunter River, which is closer, falls outside the border.
"Place of work data is a good substitute or proxy for the strength of the relationship between an outlying or an adjacent municipality to the core," he said.
Murphy said reverse commuting, which involves people who live in the core working in another area, can also determine if a community is included in the census agglomeration.
"It's less common," he said.
Statistics Canada does a review of census agglomerations every five years and Murphy said communities can be added or removed.