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2016-11-12, 11:25:41#1

Join Date: 2010-02-05
Location: Peterborough
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Vital Signs report checks Peterborough's pulse

On Oct. 6, an important report on the quality of life in Peterborough, called Vital Signs, was published.

It s a great compendium of information about our community, put out by the Community Foundation, with co-operation and statistics from 36 agencies and entities, including the City, the United Way, Telecare, Reframe Film Festival, Fleming and Trent, GreenUp, Public Health and the Social Planning Council.

It's a keeper, this four-page report, printed in the Examiner, and enlivened by graphics and a few figures and percentages. Our population, city and county, is 134,000. Our voluntarism is at an astonishing 54 per cent participation, higher than the national average by 10 points. I had a feeling we were extra generous with our time. Look at the hockey coaches alone.

In the Food for Kids program in 49 local schools, 17,000 kids enjoyed a good breakfast. Our green consciousness is relatively high and growing. Thank Susan Sauve and Cathy Dueck here. One of three of us participated in a voluntary program for the environment. That's good because the indefatigable Maude Barlow's new book, which she discussed here on Nov. 1, is called Boiling Point.

The darker side of Peterborough: our unemployment rate is at 4.8 per cent, but that varies by month. And the jobless rate only registers those who have looked for work in the preceding month. Still, many jobs are minimum wage ones, at $11.25 an hour. This study shows that an individual needs an hourly wage of $17.65 to live a decent life. Imagine how many individuals among us don't make that.

Too many of us pay too much in rent, which is considered to be more that 30 per cent of one's income. Some 120 people spend overnight in shelters every night, both youth and adult. On the wait list for social housing are 1543 households. The cost of food for a family of four for one month has risen from $820 in 2013 to $865 in 2015.

Of concern, too is that only 15 per cent of adults meet the required daily physical activity number. This must be a frustration to our doctors and nurses. Get the kids outside and off the screens.

We have 109 km of cycling routes. I've put my bike away for the winter, but I see some brave cyclists out there still. The number of farmers in our County is way down, since 1991, from 270 to 85. Amazingly, 56 per cent of us have post-secondary education, a touch higher than that for Ontario as a whole.

But 15 per cent of us live in poverty. Seven thousand people are on social assistance. A woman told me that on October 29 at the Square there was the annual Coats for Kids giveaway, and people lined up from 8.30 a.m. Our median income is $31,000.

Are we as old a community as we believed? Well, 27 per cent of us are over 60, but 24 per cent are under 30. That sounds good.

When it comes to mental health, which society is becoming more aware of, 74 per cent of us responded in 2003 that we felt we were in good mental health. This is down to 67 per cent today. What are the causes of this decline? Let's have a town hall on that question. Is it hard times economically? General demoralization? Worry about global warming? A decline in religious faith? The American election?

So, Vital Signs gives us a mixed but predominantly positive report, which I appreciate having. I just re-read it in preparation for a visit to a local food pantry.

American poet Maya Angelou has said when one knows better, one does better. On this basis alone, the Vital Signs report is greatly to be admired.

Rosemary Ganley is a writer, teacher and activist. Reach her at