Incoming: a look at Vancouver Island incomes

People's paycheques are smaller in Alberni and Cowichan Lake, larger in the Greater Victoria area

The new Campbell River Hospital takes shape near the existing Campbell River Hospital. Major health care and education centres provide good

There’s prosperity in diversity, or at least money to be made.

No, that’s not a line from the Capitalist’s Handbook on Multiculturism, more like the executive summary of Rich Island, Poor Island: Why They Drive Nicer Cars in Greater Victoria.

There is a sharp economic divide on Vancouver Island between the haves and the have-nots, at least in terms of the size of their paycheques.

The haves are huddled comfortably in the suburbs around Greater Victoria. Their less-wealthy cousins are carving out a living in the resource-based communities to the north and west.

According to statistics compiled by Island Health, three Island sub-regions have a median household income level above the B.C. median of $75,797.

Two of those areas — Sooke and the Western Communities at $84,394 and the Saanich Peninsula at $90,154 — have incomes that are significantly higher.

That contrasts sharply with Alberni-Tofino-Ucluelet, which has a median income of $58,856 and Cowichan Lake, which is even lower at $56,338.

The numbers date back to 2011 and the most recent census.

While raw incomes have likely climbed in the interim, the gaps between the communities are likely still very similar, according to Susan Mowbray, lead author of the 2015 State of the Island Economic Report.

The reason is pretty simple. Income is a reflection of jobs, and communities that offer jobs in a variety of fields are less susceptible to the ups and downs of the economy. And while the economy has improved for forestry and tourism, it hasn’t improved enough.

“The economy around Victoria is very different than the rest of the Island. Beyond Nanaimo lacks diversity,” Mowbray said. “The more diversified your economy is, the better.”

Beyond the obvious jobs created directly and indirectly by government, Greater Victoria also offers a healthy tech industry, a Canadian forces base, two large hospitals and a major university.

Institutions like major hospitals, universities and military bases won’t make a local economy boom, but they are great stabilizers.

“The new hospitals in the north Island mean they won’t drop below a certain level,” Mowbray said.

Contrast that with the West Coast, which is basically a two-horse town. One horse, tourism, doesn’t pay well, while the other, forestry, is not the job-generator it once was.

“Based on the work we did in 2014-15 (the most depressed economy) was the Alberni area,” Mowbray said. “It’s so dependent on forestry and there’s not a large opportunity to expand. It’s looking at LNG, but there are a lot of obstacles.”

While comparing salaries makes for good coffee table conversation, Mowbray points out it should not be misconstrued as being synonymous with wealth.

“Income, in general, is a terrible indicator of wealth. A group that has low income may have wealth.”

That’s exactly what is happening in our golden-age capital of Parksville-Qualicum, which ranks low on the income scale, but also scores very well in poverty indictors like social assistance and unemployment.

Sooke and Saanich again ranked the best in those areas, with rural north Island communities joining the West Coast and Cowichan Lake at the opposite end of that scale.

Nearly half the households in Sooke and Saanich report incomes of more than $80,000. Meanwhile, one in five households in Lake Cowichan reported incomes of less than $20,000.

Mowbray said Vancouver Island can have some success in diversifying by attracting telecommuters, people who have built careers that allow them to work remotely and retirees. But overall, the region is doing well.

“Vancouver Island is a relatively affluent region,” she said.

 

Median household income by region

Saanich Peninsula $90,154

Sooke-Western Communities $84,394

Victoria-Esquimalt-Oak Bay $78,909

BC overall $75,797

Cowichan $74,049

Vancouver Island overall $73,358

Port Hardy-McNeill-Alice $70,687

Ladysmith-Chemainus $69,208

Comox Valley $68,371

Campbell River $67,933

Nanaimo $67,417

Tahsis-Zeballos-Gold River $65,593

Parksville-Qualicum $64,864

Alberni-Tofino-Ucluelet $58,856

Cowichan Lake $56,338

source: Island Health

 

Just Posted

People’s Party of Canada plan to have a candidate in the North Island-Powell River riding

Elections Canada formally recognized the North Island—Powell River PPC Association

NVIATS takes over NIEFS space in Thunderbird Mall

“We were approached by NIEFS, they’re going to be downsizing”

Port Hardy Reigns compete in Nanaimo at Island Championships

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our youth in Port Hardy”

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

Canada, international allies butt heads over focus on white supremacism

Freeland she singled out white supremacy as the greatest security threat facing the world

‘Cutthroat’ sport of wine tasting happening in B.C.

BC Tasting Games are underway with competitions in three Okanagan communities.

Early data suggests no post-legalization spike in drug-impaired driving charges

Many police departments are prioritizing investigations related to drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine

WATCH: South Vancouver Island shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident, say police

One person in custody, another fled following shooting and crash on West Shore

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

Defence accuses officer of ‘incompetence’ in trial for B.C. man accused in daughters’ murder

Double murder trial for the Victoria father accused of killing his two young daughters continues

Should B.C. parents receive money if they make sure their kids are vaccinated?

New survey looks at public opinion around government’s role in forcing immunizations

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Most Read