COLUMN: Recent government announcements address Vital Signs issues

The 2018 Vital Signs report has been out for just over a month now, and some key points are already being addressed.

With the recent government announcements regarding housing on Hornby Island, and the step towards universal daycare, a couple of concerns the report touched upon can, at least, have asterisks next to them.

The “Gap Between Rich & Poor” section of the 2018 Vital Signs report showed Hornby Island as having the highest poverty rate in the Comox Valley, at 28.3 per cent.

Poverty was also at the front of the Vital Sign survey participants’ minds. The lack of support for people living in poverty was one of the most contentious topics in the survey portion of the Vital Signs report.

Last week, the government announced the Hornby Island Housing Society will receive $2.6 million to build 26 townhouses and duplexes for families, seniors and workers.

The project, which will be called Beulah Creek Village, is an 18.5-acre property between the school and the Co-op.

“That announcement, both in regards to the poverty rate by community, and when you look further into the [Vital Signs] document, talking about child poverty on Hornby Island, this is very timely,” said Comox Valley Community Foundation executive director Jody Macdonald.

In the same Vital Signs chapter, the child poverty rate in the Comox Valley was particularly alarming, specifically for children in lone-parent families, where the rate is 55 per cent.

Universal ($10 a day) daycare, of which the government recently rolled out the first phase, will go a long way toward alleviating that crisis. In respect to daycare costs, paying $10 a day could give families as much as $700 extra per child per month.

While the roll-out will happen in phases, the Comox Valley will benefit, to a degree, immediately, as Tigger Too Early Learning Centre, a Comox Valley Children’s Day Care Society (CVCDCS) facility, is one of the 53 prototype centres that has been selected for the 18-month pilot project.

The top two priorities listed in the “Gap” section of the 2018 Vital Signs report were

1) more affordable housing

2) Supports to transition from poverty to workforce.

The two government announcements address both issues to some degree.

And when it comes to affordable housing, one would be hard-pressed to find any social issue of greater concern to Comox Valley residents.

In the 2018 Vital Signs report, survey respondents expressed the affordable housing issue as the most contentious of all social issues in the Comox Valley. It also showed a massive shift in the survey scale, from the 2016 report.

Questions in the survey were gridded on a scale from -10 (strongly disagree) to +10 (strongly agree.)

The statement “Housing is affordable in the Comox Valley” received the lowest, or most negative, reaction in the entire report, at -6.3. In the 2016 report, the same statement scored a -2.6 rating.

“I find it interesting when the perceptual data matches the hard data,” said Macdonald. “That’s not always the case, but when it happens, it is a really powerful statement.”

What does all this mean, in regards to the Vital Signs report?

Certainly these two government announcements were in the works long before the 2018 Vital Signs report was compiled, but it shows that the government is in tune with the wants and needs of the people of the Comox Valley.

And it validates the information compiled in the report.

“I think our local community organizations can learn a lot from the process of looking at data, and making decisions based on that data, to improve our community health,” said Macdonald. “From the micro scale to the macro scale, like these $2.6 million projects, there’s a lot we can do to look at evidence and make decisions for the betterment of the community. That is the ultimate goal, of what we are trying to accomplish… just to get that dialogue going.”

The 2018 Vital Signs report can be found at the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce office, the Visitor Information, Lewis Centre in Courtenay, the Comox Community Centre, all libraries in the Comox Valley, as well as online at cvcfoundation.org

Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record