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Taking the pulse of life in Whistler

CFOW's 2017 Vital Signs report aims to deliver facts and context

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A new report from the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) offers a snapshot of how Whistler is growing and changing.

Based on information gathered from all levels of government and community conversations with nonprofits and community members, it shows that the resort is continuing to transition as it grows.

Titled Vital Focus: Growth, change and belonging, it looks at how Whistler is doing in its own right as well as how it stacks up to other B.C. communities.

For example it points out that finding quality, affordable child-care is a challenge across the province, not just in Whistler, and that wait lists are common. B.C. has regulated spaces for only 20 per cent of children, it notes.

"Childcare, although it feels bad, it's not different (here) than anywhere else in B.C.," explained Carole Stretch, one of the Foundation's board members.

The theme of this year's report was "growth and belonging." Whistler, it pointed out, has seen a steady increase in immigration from diverse backgrounds in recent years. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of new immigrants landing in Whistler increased by around 14 per cent a year.

According to Stretch, it's important to appreciate that Whistler's hot tourism market is drawing workers who aren't necessarily coming here for the recreational opportunities.

"The fact we have such a big tourism industry means some are coming here for the jobs," said Stretch.

By packaging the information in an easy-to-understand format, Stretch hopes to create a richer and better-informed dialogue. "There's a lot of data out there. And it's easy for communities to have urban myths," she said, underlying the importance of getting out the facts.

The report also pointed out that Whistler has one of the highest rates of population growth in B.C. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of kids in schools increased by 20 per cent, it noted.

Some other highlights include:

• The living income for an individual in Whistler rose 6.3 per cent from 2015 to 2016 ($15.38 an hour to $16.35). For a family of four, it went from $41 an hour to $44;

• In 2015, 16 per cent of permanent residents reported incomes below "living costs" levels while that rose to 39 per cent in 2016;

• The number of people in Whistler living below living income is increasing dramatically;

• The percentage of low-income families, individuals and children in Whistler is still significantly below the national and B.C. averages.

• The number of seniors has grown and the number of children under 15 has grown, though Whistler still has 13.4 per cent more working-age people than the B.C. average.

The report can be found online, and up until Oct. 11, you can find a hard copy at the Whistler Public Library, where you can also share your thoughts in written form.

Stretch said that the Foundation is also planning a get-together to discuss the report's findings and possible solutions to them, to be held sometime before Christmas.

The meeting, she said, will be an opportunity for community members to have a well-informed conversation about the best way forward.

"We're not driving this. The community is driving it," she said.

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