Letter: The Okanagan Dream, by the numbers

Kelowna letter-writer says the Okanagan dream is mostly for the wealthy

To the editor:

It has been said that change is the law of life. One need only look at the transformation that has occurred across the Central Okanagan over the last 25 years to know that this is true.

With all this change, what is perhaps more telling about the evolving social, economic, and cultural landscape in the Central Okanagan is not just what is changing, but what isn’t.

Using recent census tract data from Statistics Canada (2016), I highlight two revealing statistics that illustrate what is and what is not changing in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Kelowna, an area roughly comparable to the Central Okanagan (with the addition of Peachland).

The first statistic references level of income or wealth of the people living in CMA Kelowna. Although incomes in the area have been on the rise over the last 25 years, around the year 2000 something significant happened – the average individual income of those living here increased dramatically. For example, there was an 11 per cent increase in average individual income in the 10-year period between 1991 and 2001, but between 2001 and 2011, it tripled to 30 per cent, and ditto for the decade between 2006 and 2016. If this trend continues, in eight years the average individual income of those who live here will again be 30 per cent higher than it is now.

The second statistic pertains to diversity or cultural inclusivity in CMA Kelowna. Using ‘immigration’ as a measure of diversity, I compared the total number of immigrants in CMA Kelowna, relative to the total population in that census year, over the last 25 years. What is clear is that the number of immigrants living in the area has not increased, but has decreased nominally (by one per cent) since 1991, now sitting at just under 14 per cent. Whatever we might believe about the cultural inclusivity in our community, the numbers, unlike our perceptions, do not lie.

Given that communities shape and are shaped by the people who live in them, the shifting demographic is profoundly altering the cultural, social, and economic make-up of the area.

The Okanagan is clearly attracting a particular type of individual, and what is a green light for a few, has the natural effect of excluding the many. It is another reminder that there are increasingly two economies in B.C., and the Okanagan is becoming an extreme example of income disparity in B.C.

In the end, the numbers tell a story, and what that story tells us is that the Okanagan dream is reserved for an increasingly narrow segment of the population.

Shelley Cook, PhD Candidate, UBCO, Kelowna

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