October 31, 2016 – 11:28am
Updated: October 31, 2016 – 2:49pm
NANAIMO — The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit has transitioned from a networking conference to a valuable tool for the B.C. government and business community, according to VIEA President George Hansen.
Hansen says a second annual State of the Island Economic Report released on Oct. 27 in Nanaimo is putting an important spotlight on the strengths and weaknesses of the island’s economy.
“Puts us in a position to be able to speak with government and speak with business and say ‘these are the facts, these are not anecdotal stories,’” said Hansen.
He says several economic indicators in this year’s report were referenced by Premier Christy Clark during her speech to VIEA delegates on Thursday, which shows the value that the report presents. The report was compiled by an accounting firm which gathered data from a number of sources, including Statistics Canada and various provincial government ministries. On the positive side, Hansen notes a breakthrough economic indicator is an increase in working-aged people moving to Vancouver Island for jobs, which he says hasn’t happened in likely over 20 years.
“The very fact that our population has gone up and the participation rate has stayed the same shows that people are coming here in their working age and finding gainful employment. That’s a huge improvement for us.”
Historically, Hansen says a challenge for Vancouver Island’s economy has been an increase in population, driven mainly by a steady stream of retirees, combined with a dwindling workforce. According to the 2016 report, the island’s labour force grew by one per cent from July 2015 to July 2016 to 58.2 per cent.
The Nanaimo Regional District grew the most population-wise compared to six other Regional Districts on the island with a gain of 2,558 people, an increase of 1.7 per cent, according to the report. It also indicates that continued population growth on Vancouver Island will continue to be primarily felt in the Nanaimo and Victoria regions into next year.
The cost of living stands out in the document as a concern — in particular in Nanaimo, Parksville-Qualicum and Victoria — where home sale values jumped in the 15 per cent range last year. The report indicates that the hourly living wage on Vancouver Island ranges between $17 and $20 an hour, with Nanaimo’s rate pegged at $17.99 and Parksville-Qualicum at $17.30.
Hansen points out the annual VIEA Summit has been well received by delegates who are increasingly seeing the value in attending the 10-year-old gathering.
“It just has continued to grow, we’ve broken our attendance records every single year.”
He said 580 delegates attended this year’s summit at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre last week.