Edwina Nearhood: The strength of a community is built on partnerships


Statistics can tell an interesting story, and sometimes they don’t tell the entire story. 

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Fort St. John’s median household income in 2015 was $107,091. That median household income drops to $64,896 for single parent household incomes. There has been a large decline in industry from 2015 to present, with anticipation of a recovery in the petroleum industry. B.C. is reported to have the third largest wage gap in Canada, with a gap of 22.6% in 2017. The national gender wage gap was 18.2%. When compared with other nations, Canada comes in 13th out of 16 peer countries.

Fort St. John residents are aware of the boom-bust cycle. There are ups and there are downs. Our vulnerable populations are severely impacted in both directions. When the economy is booming, low-income earners struggle with affordable housing options. When the economy is struggling, this population is often the first to be unemployed.

Statistics are dangerous. When we see high median wages in a community there is an assumption that our marginalized people are well supported. I would be curious to see the difference in the cost of living calculated with these statistics. 

Calling all researchers – here is a good project. How does the cost of living in Fort St. John compare to the average cost of living in Vancouver? Kelowna? Prince George? What is the index between average income and cost of living? What is the index between average income and cost of living excluding housing costs? I am looking for these answers. If anyone has them, please contact me. Sometimes statistics are not captured for fear of what they will show the population (in my opinion).

Nothing is ever equal is it? The north has inequities. Ups and downs. Large wage disparity. A growing population of marginalized community members. Is this what happens when we start maturing? How do we change this growing trend?

The strength of a community is built on partnerships. When all stakeholders come together to have these conversations, we build resiliency. When we have corporate or industry support, together we grow healthy communities. When you have healthy communities you have employee retention, better work outcomes, fewer sick days and accidents. 

I look around and see corporate sponsorship for local not-for-profits, arts, and sports. Is there room for bigger conversations about the tougher subjects such as senior housing needs, drug and alcohol treatment supports, mental health supports? Can industry work together as a whole to be a part of these solutions or at least support to the solutions? Corporate sponsors for events such as community dialogue, hosting wellness events such as community drumming circles, team building exercises, cultural awareness training. Offering corporate no-barrier access to yoga, tai chi, pottery, art projects, drumming, meditation, etc. Economic barriers for accessing community wellness should not be an issue. 

We do have a corporate engagement in the community. Is it time to take inventory and discuss with all stakeholders to ensure the most effective engagement possible? 

I am so pleased with the work the Community Development Institute is doing here in Fort St. John. It is important to capture the statistics and trends experienced in the north. No one knows quite so well as each community on what the wants and needs are. Without this data we are unprepared to request supports needed for our community. 

Communities that work together, play together and support one another. Let’s grow that muscle FSJ! Get connected, be connected, stay connected.

Edwina Nearhood is a life-long resident of Fort St. John, with 30 years experience in the appraisal industry. 

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