Peter Norman, chief economist for Altus Group, spoke about the results of the 2019 South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) Index on Thursday. He said the SIPP index is about “what this region can be and where it should go.” (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Economic inequality, immigration still need work in Victoria: Prosperity index

Housing, environmental health factors show improvements in 2019: report

Victoria still has work to do when it comes to income equality, poverty rates and immigration.

According to the latest South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) index, Greater Victoria falls behind peer cities in some key areas, but is surging ahead in others – including rental housing.

The index, which released its first report in 2017, is an annual measure of regional progress across five key areas: economic resiliency, transportation and mobility, housing and affordability, human health, and environmental health.

SIPP takes a snapshot of the region, comparing its position to peer cities across Canada and the globe.

The 2019 report, released Thursday, showed a low percentage of immigrants in the Greater Victoria area, something that surprised Dallas Gislason, SIPP’s director of economic development.

“The reason that surprised me is that I always see Greater Victoria as a very welcoming…culturally diverse [place],” he said. “We have all these attributes that make us welcoming to immigrants and refugees but the numbers don’t show that we’re getting enough people.”

Immigrants make up 18.3 per cent of Greater Victoria’s population, falling short of peer cities which average at 26.9 per cent.

That’s a concern, says Gislason, because diversity is key to economic development.

“Diversity actually creates strength in an economy. And it also is actually statistically proven to increase things like innovation and the number of new startups…so immigration is something we need to address.”

READ ALSO: South Island Prosperity makes final push for Smart Cities

SIPP’s index also points to greater percentage of people living in poverty – 13.3 per cent to the peer city average of 12.6 – and greater income inequality for the region’s First Nations population – which includes over 17,000 people from 10 nations living both on and off-reserve.

Indigenous people make 82 per cent of the average income in Greater Victoria.

“Economic reconciliation is a big opportunity for this region,” Gislason said. “We need to do better, we need to engage First Nations continually in the process and ultimately make sure they are included in a prosperous, regional economy.

Reconciliation is a verb – it needs action, it needs process.”

The report does reveal overall progress in improving rental housing which now makes up 49.3 per cent of new developments – an 8.4 per cent increase from 2017.

“Rental stock in Greater Victoria was very old,” Gislason said. “We weren’t building rental units for the last 20 or 30 years. And what happened in the last 4-5 years, if we have started to see developers bring rental units to the table in terms of new build.

That built a bit of a pipeline and now we’re starting to see those projects go online.”

The report says Greater Victoria is also performing well in environmental health, transportation and human health – although the region’s suicide rate, at eight per 100,000 population has increased by 2.3 since 2017, and violent crime remains higher than the peer city average.

READ ALSO: South Island Prosperity Project brings Victoria international AI stage



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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