Vital Signs - Strong or Do We Need a Shot in the Arm?

The Victoria Foundation just released its 2009 Vital Signs Report, an interesting and informative snapshot of quality of life on the South Island and in the Capital Region (in my view, valuable reports of this type further illustrate the need to retain the Stats-Canada long form census).

Vital Signs provides "vital" information to all of us who are working and making decisions on behalf of people, their families, their neighbourhoods and their communities. I appreciate the time, research and commitment the Victoria Foundation demonstrates, not only through its Vital Signs report but also through its various philanthropic projects that make a significant contribution to the well-being of populations living in our region.

I have requested that the Victoria Foundation makes a presentation to North Saanich Council at one of its fall meetings, focusing on the results of the report. Please watch the District website and this blog for the date and time of this presentation.

Report highlights, cited as follows, represent to me some of the most important and interesting data based on the Foundation's census information, data analysis and survey results:

People Profile:
• How Many We Are - total Capital Regional population - 364,108 (2008)

• Where We Live - 67.1% of Greater Victoria residents lived in urban core; 16.9% in the West Shore; 11.7% on Saanich Peninsula; and, 4.3% on Gulf Islands (2006)

• Who We Are - 17.6% of Greater Victoria residents reported non-European ethnic origins, including those from Aboriginal communities, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Pacific Islands, the Caribbean and Middle East (2006)

• Our Homes - Average house had 2.2 people compared with 2.5 for B.C. (2006)

• Our Houses - 65.4% single family occupation, 2.5% multi-family occupation and 32.1% single person or non-family occupation (2006)

• Living Alone - 32.3% of people over 65 years of age were living alone (2006)

Important Issues Cited by Survey Respondents (listed in descending priority):
• Homelessness - 52.8%
• Cost of Living - 32.2%
• Addictions - 29.2%
• Housing - 27.3%
• Community Planning - 16.2%
• Poverty - 14.1%
• Mental Illness - 13.5%
• Sewage Treatment - 12.7%
• Health Care - 12.4%
• Municipal Integration - 11.8%

What We Do Well In:
• Recycling - 97% recycle (2007)

• Natural Environment - 85.9% satisfaction rate with access to natural environment (2008)

• Museum - 542,596 paid visits (2007/2008)

• Parkland - total of 16,141 hectares of regional, provincial and federal parkland in 2007, up by 2,687 since 2001

• Internet Use - 79.1% of 16 and over residents used internet in their homes for personal use (2007)

What We Need to Improve:
• Rental availability
• Illicit drug use
• Social housing wait list
• Child care spaces
• Rental vacancy
• Affordability index

Young Voices: (46.6% of youth in Greater Victoria are between 15 and 18 years old):
In areas of arts and culture for youth and youth having a voice in elections at a younger age, Greater Victoria was rated as a B and a C respectively. It seems clear from the results that our youth want to be more involved in their community in meaningful ways.

Youth care about their environment, citing need for green transportation such as bus service that meets their needs.

Young people cite cost of living as a "strain" and want a higher minimum wage as well as more affordable housing.

Unemployment among youth increased in 2009, leading to youth wanting safer and better places to assemble that are closer to their own neighbourhoods.

Youth are health conscious, on average eat healthy meals and snacks and understand the need for physical activity and recreation that are accessible.

Youth feel "somewhat connected" to their communities, at 60.4% of those surveyed.

Youth rated the following as "important or essential" areas for community investment:
1. Education - 89.70%
2. Affordable housing - 87.30%
3. Drug/Alcohol Rehabilitation - 79.75%
4. Public Transportation - 77.25%
5. Environmental Action - 75.55%
6. Family Support Services - 70.20%
7. Employment Programs - 67.95%
8. Arts - 55%
9. After School Programs - 53.80%
10. Police and Law Enforcement - 53.40%

Participation in Civic Life (Belonging and Leadership):
• Charitable Giving - in 2007, 28.0% of those who filed tax returns reported that they made charitable donations, down slightly than previous years.

• Sense of Belonging - 68.5% of seniors over 65 reported a "somewhat or very strong sense of belonging to their local community," demonstrating a decrease.

• Voter Turn-Out - the 2008 federal election saw a turn-out of 67.5%, considerably higher than the percentages for B.C. and Canada.

• Employment - in 2009, 63.3% of Greater Victoria residents 15 and older were employed, slightly higher than the averages for B.C. and Canada.

Over 85% of residents surveyed said they "usually or always felt safe" walking after dark.

Greater Victoria consumers paid 1.1% more in March 2009 for services and goods than they did in March 2008.

3.5% of people between 19 and 64 in December 2008 depended on unemployment insurance or basic income assistance.

Over 4,600 people were traveling the Malahat to commute to work in 2006 (most of the population lived in Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo areas).

Summary Conclusions from this Report:
The Vital Signs report indicates, based on its data collection and survey information, that Greater Victoria appears to be "moving forward" on issues of property crime, amount of median donations, rental vacancy, commuting methods and income needed for shelter. We appear to remain static on children in care of the provincial government and we appear to be losing ground on issues of unemployment, perceived health, solid waste disposal, tourism revenue, composite learning index, physical activity and charitable giving.

Note: All of the information I have used for this blog post represents data and language taken directly from the Vital Signs Report. For further information and a full copy of the report, please visit the Victoria Foundation at