The cost of living has clearly emerged as the No. 1 concern in the minds of people living and working in the Capital Region.
The Victoria Foundation revealed this and many other informational nuggets at today’s launch of this year’s Vital Signs report at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
In the “community report card,” 52.4 per cent of respondents identified cost of living as Victoria’s chief issue, up from 47 per cent last year, Victoria Foundation executive officer Sandra Richardson said in an interview, noting one-quarter said they were working more than one job.
The ninth edition of report compiles research and survey responses that offer information about issues affecting the region, with the goal of providing insight, prompting debate and inspiring philanthropy.
This year’s Victoria Capital Region Community Wellbeing Survey, based on the conceptual framework of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing from the University of Waterloo, measures the subjective wellbeing of Greater Victorians in eight quality of life categories: community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use.
Recognizing that traditional markers like GDP don’t paint the whole picture of community well-being, the index bridges the gap by using primary research to also reflect areas such as social and environmental well-being, Richardson said.
“I think it gives the report a whole lot of extra fibre,” Richardson said. “It really mirrors some of the things people have been telling us for years. “I think you’re going to find this is our best reports yet.”
Richardson was pleased with the depth of feedback from the 16,000 distributed surveys, which enjoyed a return rate of about 14 per cent.
In addition to cost of living, additional issues of concern included related issues of housing (21.1 per cent), mental illness (20.3 per cent), homelessness (16.5 per cent), employment (15.5 per cent), and health care (14.7 per cent). Additional issues rounding out the top 12 included municipal amalgamation, addictions, transportation, poverty, sewage treatment and community planning/development.
Identifying the positive aspects of life in the region as well as concerns, the natural environment topped the list of the best things about living in the Greater Victoria at 47 per cent, followed by climate (38.6 per cent) air quality (23.2 per cent), friends and family (21.1 per cent), a feeling of safety (19 per cent) and walkability (18.5 per cent).
Capitalizing on these and other positive aspects of living in the region, 88 per cent of respondents identified themselves as being happy, 87 per cent feel supported by loving family, companions and/or friends, 82 per cent feel somewhat or very connected to the community and 76 per cent rated their general sense of mental well-being as high – up significantly from 69 per cent last year, Richardson noted.
As a significant tool to the community, Vital Signs is open access information, meaning other community groups can use the data to dig deeper, or take up an issue they feel strongly about, Richardson said.
“Groups are looking at us as one of the places that knows the community well and can make these connections.”
Ultimately, the report helps expose areas of interest and concern in the community, including gaps where funds and programs are needed.
“I think we’re starting to really see the impact of how the report is being used,” Richardson said. In 2012, the Vital Signs cover questioned “Do our kids have a healthy future?” looking at issues such as activity, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
From that, the Victoria Foundation partnered with the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence to pilot the “ABCs of Physical Literacy for 175 children at the Cridge Centre and today, the initiative counts 3,300 participants throughout the region.
The impact of these and other initiatives, plus the awareness raised by these discussions, is seen in this year’s numbers: Vitals Signs reports that 91 per cent of youth ages 12 to 19 reported spending their leisure time being physically active or moderately active, up from 77 per cent in 2012.
And from last year’s Vital Signs Food Security issue, a new food funding network emerged in which 43 partnerships granted $1.6 million to support 93 local food security initiatives, Richardson says.
Also released is Youth Vital Signs, which gives youth a voice about the issues important to them. At the same time, one of the interesting results from both reports is how in sync both youth and older adults are about the issues of the day.
“They really see things from a very similar point of view,” Richardson said.
To Learn More:
Learn more about Vital Signs locally at www.victoriafoundation.ca or nation-wide at vitalsignscanada.ca
Put the report to good use
How should Victorians use this year’s Vital Signs report?
First, use it to start conversations – talk about what’s behind the data and what people are experiencing in our community, says Victoria Foundation Executive Officer Sandra Richardson.
If moved by what you read, use the report as a catalyst for action, sharing the information – and your reaction to it – with friends, colleagues, neighbours or elected officials.
Richardson also encourages people to use the Victoria Foundation’s resources to get to know the issues and organizations in their community. Request a guest speaker for your group or organization, learn about the many organizations in our community working to improve it, and what you can do to help, Richardson says.
Youth Vital Signs
What’s great about living in Greater Victoria? Here’s what local youth had to say:
1. Natural Environment –34.8 per cent
2. Parks – 31.1 per cent
3. Festivals and Events – 28 per cent
4. Climate – 25.6 per cent
5. Air Quality – 25.6 per cent
6. Walkability – 22.6 per cent
Where do youth think Victoria needs work?
1. Cost of Living – 59.8 per cent
2. Employment – 29.3 per cent
3. Mental Illness – 28 per cent
4. Education – 26.8 per cent
5. Homelessness – 22 per cent
6. Climate chage – 18.9 per cent