By Wendy Elliott
The good news of Wolfville’s growing population and sound economic indicators needs to be reconciled with high poverty rates within the town.
That’s just one of the conclusions drawn from statistics released recently in the Wolfville 2013 Vital Signs report.
The 40-page report, the second of its kind to be compiled by the Wolfville Community Fund (WCF), contains, “very positive news coupled with indicators of persistent challenges,” said Paul Callaghan, chair of the WCF’s Vital Signs Committee.
“The WCF is encouraged by the economic data coming out of the report which show Wolfville is hitting above its weight compared to provincial and national averages when it comes to growth in GDP and GDP per worker from 2006-2012.”
Growth in the housing sector is another positive sign, Callaghan said, indicating the construction industry has responded to Wolfville’s ranking as the fastest-growing municipality in the province.
Reasons for concern
Callaghan said that foundation members are concerned, especially “when we see that Wolfville continues to exceed the provincial and national averages when it comes to poverty rates amongst all age groups, except seniors.”
A full 27 per cent of residents aged 18-64 years fell below the after-tax low-income threshold, compared to 16.3 per cent provincially and 14.4 per cent nationally.
Wolfville’s child poverty rates were even higher at 29.3 per cent, compared to 20.9 per cent provincially and 17.3 per cent nationally.
These statistics are supported by data collected from the Wolfville and Area Food Bank, which indicate that monthly demand has tripled since 2007.
While the second Vital Signs report highlights many of the reasons the town remains a highly desirable place to live, work and study, Callaghan suggested that it also raises important issues of social equality.
“Since our last report in 2009, the WCF has contributed to a number of activities, which help local residents living in poverty, including school breakfast programs, after-school art programs and assistance with access to the Canada Savings Learning Bonds,” he said. “But clearly, further ongoing efforts are required. As a town, we cannot lose sight of the reality that day in, day out, a significant segment of our community have to confront real economic challenges.”
Council weighs in
“Having been a partner in the Vital Signs initiative, the town of Wolfville is experiencing growth in its economy not dissimilar to centers like Calgary, Vancouver or St. John’s,” said Mayor Jeff Cantwell.
“As indicators show, along with our very progressive lifestyle, we are like other growth centers that also face the challenges that poverty brings to a community. Fortunately, we have groups like the Wolfville Food Bank, as well as Rotary Club International and the Lions Club, who have the best of the community in mind, and we work as partners in this area of concern.”
Cantwell was pleased that the report identified improvements to Wolfville’s growth and economic indicators. Positive highlights of the report include increases in the housing sector, increased economic activity and population growth.
The report also details many of the community facilities, programs and attributes that make Wolfville an attractive place to live, work and study.
Wolfville's first Vital Signs Report in 2009 was greeted by denial and acceptance because of the finding that 26 per cent of Wolfville’s population was living on incomes that did not meet the necessities of life.
The new report can viewed online at www.novascotiavitalsigns.ca
Did you know?
• Immigrants: In 2011, 11 per cent of the population of Wolfville (440 people) was foreign born, more than double the provincial proportion (5.3 per cent), but less than the national proportion (20.6 per cent).
The highest percentage came from the United Kingdom, followed by the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Iraq.
• Housing stock: Most (46.1 per cent) of the housing units in Wolfville are apartment units, followed by single-detached houses (40.8 per cent), apartment units found in duplexes (five per cent), row houses (4.5 per cent) and semi-detached houses (3.3 per cent).
Between 2003-2012, 260 housing units were created in Wolfville, of which 153 (58.8 per cent) were apartment units (58.8 per cent), 80 (30.8 per cent) were single houses, 20 (7.7 per cent) were semi-detached and seven (2.7 per cent) were row houses. About one in seven dwelling units in Wolfville has been built in the last 10 years.
• Labour force status: Of the 1,955 persons in Wolfville’s labour force, 86.4 per cent (1,690) were employed and 13.6 per cent (265) were unemployed. At 13.6 per cent, the unemployment rate in 2011 was above the provincial rate of 10 per cent and the national rate of 7.8 per cent.
• Low income: In 2010, 25.2 per cent of individuals living in private households in Wolfville had incomes below the after-tax, low-income measure, well above the provincial level of 17.4 per cent.
For children and youth (under 18) living in Wolfville, 29.3 per cent lived in households below the low-income measure, compared to 20.9 per cent for the province. The gap between Wolfville and the province as a whole is more pronounced for individuals aged 18-64 years; 27 per cent of this group fell below the low-income level, compared to 16.3 per cent for the province.