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Kelowna’s demographic winter predicted to stay awhile

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 | 11:31 am

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By Kathy Michaels

Predominantly white, though greying, is the best way to describe this city’s dominant demographic.

Today Kelowna is the oldest community in Canada, has the lowest fertility rate and is not even close to being a hotbed for ethnic diversity.

The economic development commission has highlighted the city’s aging population as a cause for concern, noting they need to draw in more young people from across the world if the economy is to stay stable into the future.

But if a Statistics Canada  projection is right, Kelowna’s future won’t get much brighter, colourful or diverse in the next couple of decades. Not without a lot of work, anyway.

In a report that made headlines across the country, the statistical agency estimated that by 2031 visible minorities would soon be the majority nationwide, accounting for 14.4 million of the population. The change would be especially noticeable in Toronto and Vancouver where many immigrants will choose to reside, but just four hours away in Kelowna the view of 2031 remains the same as it does today.

Comparing 2006 to 2031, Statistics Canada actually predicts that the number of foreign born locals will drop from 15 per cent to 14 per cent. The number of visible minorities will rise modestly, however, from 2006’s five per cent to 10 per cent in 2031.

The lack of diversity frustrates UBC Okanagan professor Carlos Teixeira, who says all levels of government should be working together to address the issue today.

“Why being so close to Vancouver, the second most multicultural city in Canada, can’t we attract immigrants?” he said. ”We need to do more to attract visible minorities and keep them here.”

Figures from the Economic Development Commission highlight the need to bolster a working age population at the very least. By 2036, it is projected that there will be about seven dependents for every 10 people of working age and that most of those dependents will be seniors.

That creates a need for health care workers and numerous other services, and Teixiera says the solution to that problem lies in immigration.

“We need immigrants because they are generally young, they bring kids, and they play an important role in the economy, filling jobs that need to be filled,” he said, adding changes have to be made to keep them here.

“At this stage we don’t have an open community. We need services to accommodate people who speak different languages, we need affordable housing, and we need jobs that allow people a chance to work and stay here.”

The economic development commission’s Robert Fine has said Kelowna’s demographic winter is being addressed by encouraging talented and highly skilled individuals to look at making a life in the Okanagan.

“This has economic implications in shifting the region from  being an economic centre of mass production to one focussed on value-added skills, production and services,” he said. “As a low cost producer, the Okanagan cannot  and never will compete with the developing world.  As a result, the region should focus its efforts on attracting entrepreneurs and skilled workforce from across the country and from around the world with the aim toward permanency rather than temporary residence.”

Through tourism and marketing, their aim is to show families who come to the region that it’s a place to stay with ample lifestyle options.

kathy@kelowna.com

Kelowna's demographic winter predicted to stay awhile4.356

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7 Responses to “Kelowna’s demographic winter predicted to stay awhile”

  1. ami says:
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    “Why being so close to Vancouver, the second most multicultural city in Canada, can’t we attract immigrants?” he said. ”We need to do more to attract visible minorities and keep them here.”

    I am from a different culture and I believe this is the case because Kelowna is still very close minded. Some of the senior population has shown us by their actions and words that they are uncomfortable with us around.

    Talking to people around BC I have hear that Kelowna is known as a ‘white conservative’ town and even after living here for 15+ year I have to agree.

    Change needs to start from the politician, the city and the seniors. Even businesses need to change their thinking. For example not all East Indians in Kelowna work in or own farms. If we come into your store we have money to spend so please don’t ignore us.

  2. John Zeger says:
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    As long as Kelowna continues to produce housing that is mostly geared to single professionals and retirees, it will never become a family-oriented city. Take a look at what has happened to cities like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Wash. They have concentrated on densifying their urban cores with an abundance of apartments and condos. This has been termed “smart growth” but it is not exactly the kind of locale and housing that attracts families. As a result they have very few children and have been termed “childless cities”. But Kelowna seems hell-bent on replicating the failures of these cities. Some people never learn.

  3. william says:
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    i grew up in the city and that aging popualtion wasnt interested in offering the youth of tomorrow anything to do. No rec centers in the mission, no additional ice rinks and in fact the narrow minded folks in 88 voted NO to a multi purpose facility…

    can you believe that? no something essential to bring in revenue. now look at propera place. built 10 years too late and 4 thousand seats to small.

    ktown is small minded and full of people playing the part. you may see everyone with nice houses and vehicles but really its just one big mirage. most people are financed to the hilt trying to maintain status and fending of ooddles of debt. Only the locals stay there and never leave. its a clique kinda town. most of my graduation class left as soon as possible from what i know of.

    women spend 5 g’s on fake breasts and men spend 5 g’s on lifts for their trucks. thats the future of whats to come in that place…

    i recently went back for 4 days and cringed at its feel. it has no soul. the 90’s band from ktown(kss grads) Grapes of wrath once sang a song about kelowna..it was called “backward town” i couldnt agree more. its a nice place to visit in the summer but other than that this graduate of 93 couldnt wait to get the hell out of such a weird place.

    it is prodominantly a white silver back run town. and the nightlife looks like thug nightmare full of steroid testosterone douchebags and leather.

    when i read this report i laughed and wondered why it took a commission to come up with these results. they should have interviewed us kids that were left with nothing to do than party in the hills by all the seniors. at least something was finally built by michealbrook…too little too late

    my 2 cents

  4. John Zeger says:
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    I would also like to comment on what Prof. Teixeira says. Although I would like to see more ethnic and racial diversity in Kelowna, the way it manifests itself in most major Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Toronto where ethnic groups voluntary segregate themselves from the remainder of the community by establishing themselves in one part of town and mostly only associating with others of the same group does absolutely nothing for a true multiculturalism where people of various ethnic groups learn from and share in the practices of other ethnic groups. In that regard, I don’t think there is anything to be gained and plenty to lose by attempting to attract a large number of immigrants to Kelowna. Plenty to lose as there is no place to put them except in undesirable high-rise towers and there is already a water shortage with the existing number of residents. Kelowna doesn’t need a lot more people regardless of their ethnic or language background and it would only be environmentally irresponsible to try to turn it into the Vancouver of the Interior.

  5. Joe Downtown says:
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    Zeger if you think multiculturalism in Vancouver (City OR Metro) is segregated – you’re nuts! I’ve lived in southern Ontario and in greater Vancouver and they are like polar opposites. Cultures engage each other in Vancouver, especially in schools and at the community level. And food. And stores. And business. Everything.

    While it is common to see whole neighbourhoods, schools, etc. of one culture in areas of Toronto, this is actually fairly rare in greater Vancouver. Here and there, yes, but by FAR the exception to the rule.

    The fact you think that there is nothing to gain but “plenty to lose” from immigration speaks volumes.

    And what do you think an all-white Kelowna is? Sounds like a segregated culture to me, by your logic…

  6. Missmeyet? says:
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    I wonder if an article about a community being “too Black” would invite any accusations of racism. I guess not since one about Kelowna being “too White” doesn’t seem to.

  7. John Zeger says:
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    Hey Joe Downtown, here is a quote and the website that it comes from that contradicts what you say about there being a lot of ethnic interaction in Vancouver:

    “Perspectives: Do you think multiculturalism is encouraged by the city of Vancouver and the people within it?

    Joshua: If we’re talking about people blending and exchanging ideas and relationships, we’re not that successful.”

    http://perspectives.ubc.ca/?p=222

    And if you think that Vancouver is so wonderful, what are you doing in Kelowna? Too lazy to move?

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link