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New Report Says Many Canadians Are Seeing Their Quality Of Life Suffer Even As The Overall Economy G
October 23, 2012
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For years, we've heard how Canada's economy is a model of the world. Not that it is perfect, by any means.

But from Jean Chretien to Paul Martin to Stephen Harper, our Prime Ministers have boasted about the strength and stability of our economy - especially compared to powers like the United States, Europe and Japan.

Just a few months ago, Harper said if other countries want to succeed they "must become in the future what Canada is today."

He could be right. But even as Canada's economy grows, it seems a lot of us aren't really feeling it on our day to day lives.

A new study came out today from The Canadian Well-being Index, led by researchers at the University of Waterloo.

It suggests the quality of life in Canada deteriorated by 24 per cent, from the start of the global recession in 2008 to 2010.

During that same time frame, Canada's gross domestic product only declined by 8.3 per cent and started to turn around by the end of 2010.

new-report-says-many-canadians-are-seeing-their-quality-of-life-suffer-even-as-the-overall-economy-grows-feature2.jpg Former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow is co-chair of the index's advisory board.

He says "When Canada's economy was thriving, Canadians only saw modest improvements in their overall quality of life. But when the economy faltered, our well-being took a disproportionate step backward."

The index is based mainly on information from Statistics Canada, and looks at 64 factors in eight areas - everything from standard of living and health, to voter turnout and the environment.

Between 1994 and 2010, Canada's GDP grew 29 per cent while our well-being went up by just 5.7 per cent.

In fact, some measures declined sharply in recent years. They include health, the environment (air quality and greenhouse gas emissions) and standard of living (which includes job quality, income inequality and economic security).

"Despite years of prosperity, our economic growth has not translated into similar significant gains in our overall quality of life," the report says.

"Even more concerning is the considerable backslide Canadians have experienced since 2008."

The report says Canadians are increasingly busy, spending more and more time commuting and have less time for leisure, the outdoors, the arts and culture.

new-report-says-many-canadians-are-seeing-their-quality-of-life-suffer-even-as-the-overall-economy-grows-feature3.jpg "Canadians appear less able to protect a part of their lives that they most value and by which they are most enriched," the report says.

Romanow says all of this is preventable but governments and citizens have to start to look beyond the traditional economic numbers, such as GDP.

As the introduction to the report says "GDP tells us nothing about our people, our environment, our democracy, or other aspects of life that matter to Canadians."

Romanow says "What we have to do as a nation and society is to develop a consciousness, develop public policies which address this."

The report says "The deterioration experienced by so many Canadians speaks to the growing unease felt across Canada and must be taken into consideration as our governments make decisions on how to steer us forward, particularly given predictions of an extended period of weak economic growth."

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development echoed that sentiment last week, saying broader areas of well-being, such as the environment and health, "needs to be at the heart of policy-making."

The report calls for national strategies to improve well-being in specific areas, led by the federal government.

But the Prime Minister has always maintained the provinces are better suited to deal with areas like that.

We are doing better in some areas, according to the report.

Violent crime and property crime are at their lowest levels since 1994. People feel safe walking in their neighbourhoods and generally feel a strong sense of community.

More people have flexible work hours. Fewer teenagers are smoking, more kids are finishing high-school and basic education scores are still above global averages.

University graduation rates are strong, but more and more graduates are finding it difficult to find a job.

With respect to the environment, the report says Canadian households are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

new-report-says-many-canadians-are-seeing-their-quality-of-life-suffer-even-as-the-overall-economy-grows-feature4.jpg But the same can't be said for industry. That's lead to a big increase in emissions since the mid 90s.

"Looking at all the data, we see that Canada is creating one of the biggest ecological footprints per person in the world... raising the question: is this the Canada we aspire to leave our children and our grandchildren?"

Environment Minister Peter Kent has said that emissions have started to fall even as the economy is growing.

This is the second annual report put out by The Canadian Well-being Index. It was put together by two lead researchers, along with input from 12 experts in various fields.

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