Counting on a Merry Christmas
December 11, 2015

This column first appeared in the December All Month edition of the Salmon Arm Friday AM

Christmas came early for me this year with the new government’s first announcement that the mandatory long form census would be restored. Sometimes the best presents are the most difficult to wrap. Numbers – good, properly collected ones – are important because, like words, they tell compelling stories and make better decisions.

I invite you to spend some time with your friendly neighbourhood statistics at statcan.gc.ca. Simply enter Salmon Arm in the search box on the top right hand corner and, voila, our numerical story unfolds.

We are relatively older than the provincial and national averages. At the last census, the median age in Salmon was 48 while the national average was 40. Some cities in Canada are 10 years younger than the national average. It’s important to know this because, just like people, no two cities are alike. Often times, a provincial or national “one size fits all” policy decision does not fit all at all. Which is why good representation from MPs, MLAs and municipal councillors is so important, especially in smaller communities.

Not all of the demographic cohort grow at the same rate. For instance, from 2006 to 2011, the population growth in the 65+ category grew by 16.6 percent while Salmon Arm overall grew at 9.1 percent.

We earn slightly less than the provincial average but our housing costs are significantly lower.
The median after-tax income of economic families in Salmon Arm in 2010 was $57,223 (British Columbia of $67,915) But our average monthly shelter costs are 76% of the provincial average.

Most of us live in single family dwellings and the median value is $349,000. When you compare this to the average $667,000 home price in British Columbia in 2015, up almost 100,000 since 2014, you can see the early conditions under which young families with some labour mobility from the Lower Mainland might consider a move to Salmon Arm thus giving us the opportunity to lower our median age which is important for long term future planning.

Given our older demographic, it might not surprise you that many of us drive ourselves to work. Some of us walk. Few of us take the bus or ride our bike. Active transportation is an area in need of improvement and is an attractive quality to newcomers. In fact, if you look up a real estate listing in the area, you might note the “walk score” of the property in question. Building trails, connecting neighbourhood and enhancing a community’s health adds value to our properties and indeed to our lifestyles.

Of course you’ll remember that the Christmas story also had to do with a long walk and a census. Mary and Joseph travelled on foot (mostly) to Bethlehem to be counted, after all.

Perhaps Christmas is a reminder that we all need to stand up and be counted; for what we believe in, for what we care about, for what we contribute and this Christmas especially, for the newcomers (from near and far) who will soon settle here and be counted among us.

Merry Christmas.

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Dear Santa
December 7, 2013

This column first appeared in the December 2013 All Month of the Friday Am in Salmon Arm, BC

Dear Santa,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time but adulthood has been much busier than I had expected. Still, it’s no excuse. I should have written years ago to thank you for the doll I got when I was six, the perfect mandarin oranges at the toe of my Christmas stockings, the yummy and sticky deliciousness of all those candy canes (let’s just forget about the dentist bills for the moment) and, most of all, the joy on my parents’ face come Christmas morning. I know you had more to do with that than you’ll ever let on. So thanks. The happiness of those moments helps to shape the traditions that my husband and I now share with our own children.

A happy childhood is magical, especially at Christmas.  I have such vivid memories of the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade,  the Simpson’s Christmas windows, the visits to Toyland in my best outfit for my annual picture with you. I’m afraid to say, we’ve replaced most of those experiences with Walmart commercials. Sad face.

Thankfully, the public domain, or works that are available for the public to use for free, means that Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the original Grinch and It’s a Wonderful Life  invade the airwaves this time of year. It saves broadcasters a ton of money  (Rogers will need it given the billions they spent to buy our national game) but it also reminds us of what the holidays were like before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That aside, In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d write to offer any assistance I could in making other people’s Christmas holiday as happy as ours have been. I hope you’ll check your records to make sure that the Shuswap Family Resource Centre, the Shuswap Community Foundation, Aspiral Youth Partners, the Safe Society and Second Harvest food bank, among others around here, have made it to your coveted nice list. The work they do helping children get what they need to become happy and productive grow- ups would impress even your keenest, most experienced elves.

I’m sure you have WIFI up there at the North Pole. Shaw will, after all, do just about anything to make an extra buck. Telus might even be investing in fibre optics in your neighbourhood too. I bet your facebook and twitter feeds are full of posts about crooked mayors, wayward senators, even a Prime Minister who denies benefits to disabled Veterans. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even bother with the piece of coal but it’s not my decision to make. Maybe you can get through to them. Lord knows, many have tried. A spot on the naughty list might do the trick.

I hope you’ve blocked the elves from this tomfoolery lest it interfere with their good nature and enthusiasm. While their hard work is most appreciated on Christmas Day itself, their spirit of giving is what helps us grown-ups muster through from Boxing Day to the next Christmas Eve. We need that.

So, dear Santa, my wish is that you and your elves have a merry Christmas. And here’s why. You devote yourselves to making sure you give a merry Christmas. And that, ultimately, is what the season is all about.  If you don’t mind my saying, here in the Shuswap, you’ve got plenty of helpful elves who deserve our thanks not to mention a perfect Christmas orange and the sticky deliciousness of a candy cane or two.

PS – if you’d like an extra hot egg nog latte, just tweet me @lwmediability when you fly over Revelstoke. I’ll have it waiting for you in your favourite mug and I promise, I won’t peek or post a picture to facebook. Your secret is safe with me. I will always believe.