It was report card day for the City of Winkler. The 2018 Vital Signs assessment, the second survey of its kind initiated by the Winkler Community Foundation since 2012, was released earlier this week. The report provides a snapshot of the health of the community in a number of aspects including housing, the economy and recreation.
After hundreds of interviews with key stakeholders and community members, lead researcher Carina Cardona notes a number of concerns facing the city including poverty, a lack of affordable housing and long wait times for personal care homes.
While overall poverty rates have also dropped significantly, Cardona notes people are disproportionately impacted by poverty. One in three elderly women is living in poverty, twice the provincial average. Forty percent of single parents are also impacted by poverty. Seniors' mental health rates are also worse than the Manitoba and Canada averages, a concern exacerbated as day programming and a local handi-van service were recently cancelled.
Wait times for personal care homes are also twice as long in Winkler compared to the surrounding region. Young families are also experience wait times as the community only has licensed childcare spaces for 1/10 youth under the age of five.
However, while the first Vital Signs in 2012 provided a baseline, organizers say the new report shows some positive emerging trends.
Home ownership remains high, and the support for immigration remains strong. Winkler also boasts a young labour force with a lower median age compared to the rest of Canada and a population replacement rate that Canada hasn't seen since the early 1970's.
Household income has increased at a rate faster than Manitoba and Canada averages, and the gap between rich and poor remains smaller with more middle-income families.
Entrepreneurship is a continued pillar of the community with self-employment accounting for 66 percent of local businesses.
Crime severity is approximately half of the Canadian average and 88 percent less than the average for prairie provinces.
Vital Signs' Phillip Vallelly says while the report may confirm what many already knew, he hopes the data challenges stakeholders' policies and procedures, "we want innovation... not mediocrity."
"We live in an age with so much opportunity, and we may be growing, but we have a lot of growing pains," Vallelly says. "We're trusting a lot of people with this information to guide us through that process."
The 2018 Vital Signs report is available at the Winkler Civic Centre.