Vital Signs report sheds light on quality of life in Waterloo Region

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The third annual Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs report, issued today by The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation and the Cambridge and North Dumfries Community Foundation, shines a light on our progress as a community.

We are one of the safest communities in the country, we use less water, we recycle, and more of us are now using the transit system, to highlight a few.
However, much like the past two years, there’s more to the story than meets the casual eye.

Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs also describes a community that, while surrounded by cultural opportunities, does not attend events or visit museums or galleries nor does it invest as much in the arts in comparison to creative communities like Toronto, Ottawa, or Hamilton.

And, Health and Wellness continues to be an area of concern for the Region. Obesity is on the rise, our activity levels are declining, we are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and we don’t have sufficient doctors for the number of people living here.

This year’s report found that while overall our poverty rates are declining (yet trending toward provincial and national numbers), our poverty rate for the elderly is on the rise. In addition, the report highlights that we have fewer child care spaces available for our families and that we lag behind the province with our investment in child care overall.

The report also suggests that Waterloo Region is well on its way to becoming a large, urban centre. While still faring better than Ontario and Canada, we are slowly trending toward provincial and national averages and experiencing more of the challenges associated with urban living.

Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs is part of a nation-wide community foundation initiative coordinated by Community Foundations of Canada and based on Toronto’s Vital Signs® developed by the Toronto Community Foundation and first published in 2001. Today, 16 community foundations are releasing their own local Vital Signs report cards.

Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs report highlights success and opportunity for Waterloo Region on several fronts:

· We divert more waste through recycling, composting, e-waste, and re-using building supplies in comparison to Ontario.

· The amount of treated water used in Waterloo Region was only 73 per cent of the median amount used in Ontario – which shows us that we are cutting back on our water use.

· We have more people giving to the causes they care about the most than seen across Ontario and Canada. And those donations tend to be larger.

· After falling behind for years, more of us are taking the bus to get to our destinations.

· Although it went down between 2007 and 2008, the Composite Learning Index score for the Region was still higher than both Ontario’s and Canada’s scores.

· Violent crimes and hate crime are well below the provincial and national percentages and the Crime Severity Index – the index that measures the level of personal impact of crimes committed – is also lower.

· Our employment rate is higher here.

· And, more of our residents are actively working or looking for a job as noted by the participation rate.

But the report also shows us that we have a number of areas in which we need to improve:

  • We have fewer people employed in cultural industries.
  • Investment in arts and culture is lower in Waterloo Region than in other creative communities.
  • The income gap between our richest and our poorest is getting larger.
  • Health and Wellness continues to be an area of concern as noted by our rising obesity rates, declining activity levels, the fact that we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and we don’t seem to have enough doctors to service our growing community.
  • While overall poverty rates are declining, there are still a number of seniors in the Region feeling the affects of poverty in contrast to the trend seen across Ontario and Canada.
  • Child care investment is lower here and we have fewer child care spaces than seen across the province and country.
  • We have slightly fewer high school graduates here.
  • And fewer of our residents have completed post secondary education.

“The release of our third Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs report continues to be both a celebration and a reality check,” says Jane Neath, Executive Director of the Cambridge and North Dumfries Community Foundation. “Our hope is that it will continue to raise awareness of important issues and stimulate debate so that we can all work together to improve the lives of our families, neighbours, and friends and make Waterloo Region an even better place to live, work, play, and grow.”

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