WAYNE YOUNG: Island voices must be heard – The Guardian

Their voices ring like a call to action throughout the 24-page Vital Signs report, a thoughtprovoking reflection of how Islanders view their quality of life in 2019.

Overall, we measure up pretty well but through expert commentary, relevant data and most of all voices of Islanders, the report makes it clear theres still plenty of room for improvement. Voices like an anonymous participant in one of an Island-wide series of focus groups last summer who said diversity should be embraced and promoted.

While there is richness in the differing opinions, ideas and experiences that come with immigration and diversity, however, the participant said more still has to be done.

we need to fight fear, racism and bigotry with facts.

On the issue of poverty, an East Prince participant observed quality of life is based on more than income.

I tell my kids we are rich in love. Not everything is monetary value.

To fight poverty, the report offered possible solutions, among them, a basic income guarantee or livable wage, a fairer tax structure for lowincome Islanders and tying housing costs to income. Whats not needed is more study, said a Central Queens participant.

Weve been studying it to death and nothings happened.

The focus groups had plenty to say about housing. Clearly, some seniors are struggling.

Seniors cant leave their homes because theres nowhere to go, one participant said. They also cant leave hospitals because theres nowhere to go.

Again, there was no shortage of possible solutions, from intergenerational housing for seniors and students to more cooperative housing and publicprivate partnerships with more rental units geared to peoples income.

Under the theme Belonging and Leadership, some see a lack of meaningful input and participation into the planning process.

There are too many smart people with little sense who have never lived in rural P.E.I. making decisions, a participant from Eastern Kings suggested.

The perception of a widening rift between city and country, especially among rural Islanders, was addressed in a commentary by UPEI history professor Ed MacDonald. Although farm population continues to decline (3.1 per cent in 2016 compared to 63 per cent in 1931), he said it is agriculture that maintains the patchwork quilt that is intrinsic to Islanders quality of life.

And, he said, if the perception of two islands where there was once one cannot be bridged perception will become reality.

Health and well-being, of course, was a major issue addressed in all focus groups. Many participants called for a more collaborative approach to health care among government, practitioners and community, and to address the root causes of many health issues, like poverty and food insecurity, low educational levels, loneliness and lack of public transportation.

Money is nothing if you dont have health, an East Prince participant observed.

The Vital Signs report, a collaboration between the Community Foundation of P.E.I. and UPEIs Institute of Island Studies, offers a timely measure of Islanders wellness and quality of life.

Legislators would be well advised to carefully review the voices of those quoted in the report and to factor their observations into future decisions.

Voices like theirs should be at the forefront of the policy making process.

Wayne Young is a freelance writer living in Summerside.

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WAYNE YOUNG: Island voices must be heard - The Guardian

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