A local business owner says he’s concerned with Kelowna’s prospects for attracting newcomers after reading through a recent report on the subject from the Conference Board of Canada.
Mike McLoughlin has been the co-owner of Medi-Kel, a family practice and Walk-In clinic, since 2008.
This city, he said, is a beautiful place to live, but when it comes to recruiting doctors to run his practice, he’s had nothing but trouble.
“They come for six months, then they leave,” he said.
Of recent note, McLoughlin hired a Quebec doctor who didn’t manage to stay a year. He left, citing problems with the cost of real estate and limited employment opportunities for his wife, as his reason to leave.
“I couldn’t figure out why we had such difficulty, but now I can,” McLoughlin said, gesturing toward the lengthy report from the Conference Board, where Kelowna gets an abundance of failing grades, yet manages to come out with a C.
“We are the worst performing in housing and affordability,” he said.
Kelowna also picked up Ds in the categories of innovation, education and society. For the second time in a row, however, it got an A for the environment.
The report titled, City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities analyzes and benchmarks what’s making Canadian cities appealing to migrants.
The cities’ performance, from 2006 to 2011, is compared on 43 indicators grouped into seven categories: Society, health, economy, environment, education, innovation, and housing.
Data is based on the 2011 Census and National Household Survey.
“Attracting skilled workers is crucial to Canada’s competitiveness,” said Alan Arcand, associate director of the board’s centre for municipal studies.
“Cities that fail to attract new people will struggle to stay prosperous and vibrant.”
The conference board suggests that cities in this class should strive to do better to boost their appeal to newcomers.
McLoughlin, who has political ambitions, thinks it’s something that could be worked on through the municipal level of government.
The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission said there will be a need to fill 20,000 new positions in the next 10 to 15 years, and getting that done will take a co-ordinated effort.
“People say some of these things are out of our control. But, let’s work with the community to address them,” he said.
“We, as a city, need leadership and stewardship to address the challenges.”
Although he doesn’t have the answers to all ills, he believes that everything from working with businesses to incorporate human resources plans to creating more affordable housing options would improve the attractiveness of the city.
The board gave top marks to Vancouver, Waterloo, Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Ont., and St. John’s.
Cities that were given a C grade with “room for improvement” alongside Kelowna,
were Montreal, London, Kitchener, Richmond and Surrey.
Cities with a D: Hamilton, Brampton, St. Catharines, Abbotsford, Trois-Rivières and Saint John.
KELOWNA’S REPORT CARD
Economy, overall grade C
GDP per capita C
GDP growth B
Workforce travelling outside the city for work A
Employment growth B
Unemployment rate B
Disposable income per capital C
Knowledge employment D
Full time employment D
Education, overall grade D
Population with a bachelors degree D
Population with an advanced degree D
Number of elementary and secondary school teachers C
Number of university professors and college instructors D
Environment, overall grade A
Average maximum temperature B
Air quality advisory days A
Domestic water used B
Driving distance to work for solo commuters A
Health, overall grade C
Hospital bed availability C
Access to general practitioners C
Access to specialist physicians C
Population employed in health care services A
Population employed in occupations supporting health care B
Housing, overall grade D
Income spent on mortgage C
Income spent on rent D
Homes in need of major repair B
Innovation, overall grade D