Quality of Place

Poverty

 

A city can boast impressive macroeconomic statistics for wealth and income, but if some people are left behind in the wake of these positive developments, a community cannot call itself successful. Progress in fighting poverty must be pursued and measured as much as progress in growing GDP. There is a new commitment to reducing poverty as a result of an initiative kicked off in summer 2017 under the co-leadership of the Halifax Regional Municipality and United Way Halifax. An initial report of findings was published in March 2018, with project implementation to begin in the coming months.

 

LIM and LICO are often cited as proxies for poverty measures. Under LIM, a household is low income if its adjusted income is below half of the population’s median income. For the LICO, a spending model is estimated and the income needed for a given level of spending on food, shelter, and clothing is derived. According to the 2016 census, almost 59,000 people in Halifax fall below the LIM threshold, including close to 14,000 children under the age of 18—5,000 of whom are under six years old—and 7,000 seniors. Compared to 10 years earlier, the proportion of the overall population falling below the LIM threshold stayed the same, but the proportion of children (under 18) and especially young children (under six) rose.

 

Over 38,000 people fall below the LICO threshold, of whom roughly 8,000 are children and 1,600 are seniors. Compared to 10 years ago, the number of children falling below the LICO threshold has decreased from about 9,000 to about 8,000. The population of seniors falling below the LICO threshold has remained unchanged, despite an increase in the number of seniors in the city.

 

Child Care

 

Access to quality, affordable child care is an important contributor to reducing poverty, increasing women’s labour force participation, and promoting the development of

young children.

 

There are over 20,000 children under age five in Halifax. The Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development lists 158 licensed, full-day child care centres in Halifax with total capacity of roughly 9,000. Clearly there are far more children in the pre-school age range than there are licensed child care spaces.

 

However, many infants below one year will be cared for by a parent on maternity or paternity leave, and many children between ages one and four will be cared for by a stay-at-home parent, relative, or a non-licensed child care centre (furthermore, the provincial government continues to expand its pre-primary program, which over time will provide coverage for an increasing number of four-year-olds). Thus, it is incorrect to conclude there is a shortage of over 11,000 child care spaces in Halifax. That said, there could be many families having trouble accessing the services they need, but no hard data exist to answer the question of how many.

 

More than one-third (39%) of respondents to the City Matters Survey ages 18 to 34, and 26% of those ages 35 to 54 strongly agreed that they have sub-optimal child care arrangements because they had no other option.

 

A December 2017 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides results of survey data on child care fees across Canada. Due to the heavily subsidized provincial child care program in Québec, fees are by far the lowest in Québec City. Among the remaining four comparator cities (no data was available for Victoria), Halifax ranks second least expensive for all three age categories.

 

Arts, Culture, and Entertainment

 

Halifax’s status as a provincial capital and the Atlantic region’s major centre means that its residents are blessed with a variety of options for arts, culture, and entertainment that exceed what is available in many other similarly sized Canadian cities. In this year’s City Matters Survey, the average rating for arts and cultural events in Halifax on a scale of one (very poor) to 10 (excellent) was 7.0, with 44% giving a score of eight or higher.

 

Safety

 


Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) measures the incidence and severity of crime over time and across cities. The most recent CSI for Halifax decreased for the seventh straight year in 2016, dropping 2.5 points. Halifax’s score is below the Canadian average and the second lowest among benchmark cities.

 

Halifax’s Violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI) decreased by 4.4 points, which was welcome news after the 7.8 point increase in 2015. Halifax’s VCSI remains the third highest among benchmark cities. Regina experienced the largest increase in its VCSI at 15.6 points. Victoria experienced the largest decrease at 12.1 points.

 

Community

 

Measures of satisfaction, involvement, and inclusion are important metrics for assessing a city’s health and vibrancy. The 2018 City Matters Survey has several interesting findings on these issues. When asked to rate the overall quality of life in Halifax on a scale from one to 10, 45% of respondents gave a rating of eight or higher, and only 16% gave a rating below six. The ratings for Halifax as a place to raise a family were even better, with 56% choosing one of the top-three scores, and 16% giving a rating below six. When asked if Halifax was a good place to grow old, the score worsened. Forty-four percent gave a rating of eight or above, but the percentage giving a score below six grew to 25%.

 

Health

 

Another important measure of the health of the community is the literal health of the community. Statistics Canada provides data for a number of chronic health conditions, participation in activities associated with both good and bad health, self-reported perceptions of health, and access to and interaction with the health care system. The most recent data available for Halifax are for 2015-16.

 

Compared to Canada-wide figures and the six benchmark cities, Halifax has a mix of good and bad scores across the chronic conditions listed in Table 18. Halifax ties for the highest prevalence of asthma and is close to the highest rate for diabetes but has the second-best figure for high blood pressure. Halifax’s rate of overweight and obesity among youth is the highest among all six benchmark cities and substantially higher than most. However, Halifax lands in the middle of the pack for adult overweight and obesity.

 

Transportation

 


Total hours of transit services are projected to decrease for the first time in five years to 958,000. The estimated ridership for 2017-18 was 19.1 million, down about 100,000 riders

from 2016-17. This marks the second straight year that ridership has declined. Halifax Transit initiated 15-minute weekday service from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for the Alderney Ferry on a trial basis in February 2018.

 

The 2018 City Matters Survey asked about both satisfaction with current transit service and opinions on potential new transit options. On all four questions related to the frequency, speed, convenience, and cost of bus service, mean scores for 2018 were up from

2017 levels. When asked about the possible introduction of a commuter rail system to Halifax, 66% of respondents either supported or strongly supported a new commuter rail system, and 46% of respondents stated that they would be somewhat likely or very likely to use the commuter rail as their primary means of transportation if it were available in their neighbourhood. Note, however, that these questions were asked without reference to the capital costs associated with building a commuter rail system or individual fares to use a commuter rail system.

 

Environment

 

Last year’s Index reported that the city had one of the highest waste-diversion rates in the country as of 2014-15 at 61% and that even higher targets—63% in 2016-17 and 65% by 2019-20—had been set for the future. Table 23 shows that the municipality’s performance remained steady in 2015-16, the latest year for which data is available, but that significant improvement will be required to hit the specified targets.

 

In terms of renewable energy, the 2016-17 Accountability Report from the Nova Scotia Department of Energy states that the province is on track to reach its 2020 target of having 40% of total electricity generation come from renewable sources such as wind, tidal, biomass, and hydroelectric power. In 2017, 29% of Nova Scotia’s electricity was supplied by renewable sources.