Newspaper people, like policy-makers, love numbers.
In a world where perspective is myriad and perception often myopic, numbers give us a chance to find broad common ground or a shared foundation we can use to talk about larger issues.
Here, much credit is due the Islands Trust staff in Victoria for starting the work to query Statistics Canada and bring us all some highly localized numbers. We can particularly thank Trust Area Services director Clare Frater, who has clearly been a driving force for the initiative.
Now we have local numbers to confirm, or contradict, what we’ve all “seen.” The population on Salt Spring, for example, is indeed growing quickly — there are 50 per cent more of us than there were 30 years ago. But it happened even faster on some other islands, like Mayne, where population grew by 77 per cent, Bowen where it doubled, or South Pender’s Local Trust Area, where it grew by 126 per cent.
And as the “shelter cost” for both renters and homeowners grew across B.C. over the last five years, it grew slightly less within the Islands Trust, where it’s still somehow less expensive to put a roof over one’s head than the provincial average — less surprising, perhaps, if one remembers half of B.C. lives in the upscale confines of Metro Vancouver, or that on several of our islands the percentage of “inadequate” housing is double the average.
Indeed, numbers often deliver as many questions as they do answers. Why is the gender wage gap so pronounced on Bowen, but narrowed to nearly zero on Lasqueti? With Salt Spring and Mayne islands having nearly the same population density, why did the home ownership rate climb on one and fall on the other? And why is the percentage of households spending 30 per cent or more of their income on “shelter costs” so different from one island to the next? Wages? Housing availability?
Policy-makers, like the rest of us, have a lot to work out with all this new information. But surely we can agree that knowing more is a good thing, and we welcome better opportunities for more informed decisions.
Now we’ll see if our elected officials take advantage of those opportunities as a result.