Anyone looking to better understand the issues facing West Coasters has a new painting by the numbers to assess.
The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust recently released its 2016 Vital Signs report, which presents in-depth statistics on a wide range of regional information from population, to housing prices, to food security.
“This is a major focus for the CBT’s staff over the summer and we’re really thankful for all the local folks who contribute their knowledge and data into the report,” CBT executive director Rebecca Hurwitz told the Westerly News.
“Collaboration is very important. We see this as the communities’ data. It’s the CBT’s role to put it together in a way that is inviting and accessible.”
Hurwitz cited transportation, food security and environmental health as key issues facing local communities and thus key focuses of the report.
“We’re seeing some trends that we wanted to hone in on so the focus on transportation, on climate change and on food security is in response to the questions that we’re hearing from community members and the changes we’re seeing around us,” she said.
“All of us as residents are constantly making observations about our communities and ecosystems around us and it’s good to have data to either support or discount those observations and to understand the changes that we’re seeing…Hopefully, the vital signs report is providing data that all of us can use to make positive changes.”
She said shedding light on transportation issues has motivated community leaders and organizations to address it.
“We know that nearly 20 per cent of our region has difficulty getting to medical appointments or work because they don’t own a vehicle and there’s lots of new initiatives piloting public transportation solutions,” she said.
She cited the West Coast’s new Wheels for Wellness program as well as the Chuu Train bus pilot project spearheaded by Leadership Vancouver Island as ways transportation is being tackled locally.
The report suggests food costs have gone up by about 16 per cent in the last five years and that the cost of food on the West Coast is roughly 21 per cent higher than Port Alberni.
“We spotlighted that rising cost of food both in our region and in the Port Alberni region and it’s consistent with what many of us are observing at the grocery stores,” she said. “Food costs are certainly rising.”
This is the third Vital Signs report published by the CBT, which has released a new report every two years since its inaugural report in 2012. Hurwitz said releasing new information every two years keeps fresh data circulating while allowing time to tackle issues that data raises.
“It’s important to have new and locally relevant data,” she said.
“And, we want to have an opportunity to reflect on the information, and act on it, rather than be perpetually working on reports.”
She said the data collection process is exhaustive and includes federal, regional and local statistics as well as public input.
She added a survey circulated through the West Coast’s two high schools, Ucluelet Secondary School and Maaqtusiis School in Ahousaht, to ensure local students were heard from.
“I really would like to say thank you to our sponsors, especially the district of Ucluelet and the district of Tofino who helped us with the funding to publish the report. The United Way for the Central Island is a new sponsor for this year and the local action team for the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative was very supportive of our youth survey,” she said.
“It takes a lot of work to compile the data from many sources and produce a report that is accessible and of interest to people so we are glad that it is well received in the community and thankful that people are positive about it.”
Copies of the report can be found throughout the West Coast’s district offices and First Nations’ government houses as well as local libraries and medical clinics.