THINGS ARE NOT AS GOOD as they used to be in Kamloops. The Citizen Satisfaction Survey results for 2022 are out.
Whereas the quality of life was rated good or very good by 95 per cent of respondents in 2019, it is down to only 83 per cent today.
Kamloopsians have thought life in Kamloops was good or very good for quite some time. In 2016, 94 percent rated quality of life good or very good. In both 2009 and 2012, it was even higher, at 96 per cent.
In 2006, a whopping 99 percent rated quality of life in Kamloops good or very good.
But now we’re at only 83 percent. Looking at it another way, about one in five people in Kamloops think the quality of life is poor (13 per cent) or very poor (4 per cent).
Chris Foulds, editor of Kamloops This Week, made a comment on the online show Kamloops Last Week that we need to look at what has happened over the last few years.
He said that one way to understand the drop in citizen satisfaction is to look at what has changed. He cited COVID, wildfires, floods, and highway closures as all having put huge pressure on the city. The opioid crises, growing homelessness and mental health have strained the social safety net. We’ve had a few difficult years.
I agree with Foulds that there have been some tremendous strains on the community. And some consequences. Housing is far more unaffordable. Labour shortages have made it more difficult for businesses. People are feeling unsafe because of the feeling crime is increasing.
COVID kept families apart and strained healthcare services. We’ve lost people we loved to the opioid crisis.
Looking forward, how do we get back to 90 percent or more feeling Kamloops is a good or very good place to live.
First, we need to acknowledge that future disasters, pandemics, or other strains will affect our community. We’ve been very lucky for a long time. But the strains on our community like we’ve endured over the last few years will happen again. It is inevitable.
Second, we need to work at being a more resilient community. In 2021, B.C. Business Magazine ranked B.C. communities for resilience. Criteria included population growth, financial vulnerability, rental vacancy, economic diversity, environmental resilience, and employment among other measures.
Kamloops ranked only 23 out of 50 cities. We may be the Tournament Capital of Canada, but we have a ways to go if we want to say we are the most resilient city in B.C.
Community resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult times. Building community resilience is the acknowledgement that difficult things will happen, but we can prepare for disruptions.
This week, City council approved a grant application for $30,000 to support the work of the local Emergency Social Services. The council recognizes the huge undertaking the ESS has taken on in recent years supporting evacuees. Fire after fire, floods, plus ongoing small emergencies such as house fires.
The ESS volunteers do not have infinite capacity to support emergencies that drag on for weeks if not months. The $30,000 grant would strengthen their organization. And it would make Kamloops more resilient.
Kamloops needs to look at other ways of being more resilient. Housing is more and more difficult for many including students, many seniors, and single people.
Attainable housing helps to build a resilient community. What we’ve done in the past won’t work in the future. Council needs to support innovative housing solutions brought forward by the development community to meet the demands of the missing middle.
Population growth helps resilience. Kamloops needs to attract people to fill the jobs vacated by retiring baby boomers. We need to attract new immigrants to our city.
Provincially, the average city has 29 per cent newcomers. In Kamloops, only 10 per cent of our population are new immigrants. The recent symposium by Thompson Rivers University and Kamloops Immigrant Services highlighted how we can follow the lead of other B.C. cities such as Vernon who have implemented strategies for making their cities more welcoming to newcomers.
As a city, we need to start planning now for next winter so that there are adequate shelter beds.
Things are good in Kamloops, but not as good as they have been. We won’t get back to a citizen satisfaction of 90 percent or more by simply being the Tournament Capital of Canada.
It’s time to look at making our community more resilient so that when the next disaster happens, we can bounce back better.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.