Indicators not whole story

Regarding the Feb. 15 column by Paul Willcocks (Liberal Decade Average At Best, Say Its Own Reports);In 2001, the B.C. Progress Board established the most comprehensive set of measures available to track B.C.’s economy, innovation, education, environment, health and society performance. Ten years later we use the same set of indicators although we have made some changes as we learned more about the task given to us.Similarly, we have learned that B.C.’s ranks on these indicators are generally slow to change but that does not mean that our province’s economic and social performance is stagnant. Consider this: British Columbia ranked third for real GDP per person in 1990 and weak growth of 2 1/2 per cent for the decade only cost the province one rank position. B.C. ranked fourth in 2000 and 2009 but grew by 10.7 per cent – roughly four times more than in the previous decade. Crime increased by eight per cent in the 1990s and B.C. started and ended the decade with the worst crime rate in the country. The crime rate fell by a quarter in the 2000s but only went up one rank position.One exception to this pattern, at least for the 1990s, is LICO. The proportion of individuals living below Statistics Canada’s ‘low income cut-offs’ earned B.C. a fifth place rank in 1990. This fell to last place as the ratio climbed by almost one-third to reach 16.4 per cent in 1999. However, B.C.’s rate fell by one-quarter in the 2000s  – to a rate below the one seen in 1990. Interestingly, that accomplishment was not enough to earn a rank improvement.Many of the 26 indicators we track tell similar stories to those above in that we have had improvement in performance with little change in rank. All of the board’s work is public and any who want to review our analysis can find the information on our website or by contacting us.The B.C. Progress Board has always considered the goals it set out in 2002 as “stretch objectives.” B.C. has improved on many indicators and should continue to strive to reach these challenging goals – however, it is possible to see significant improvement without a change in rank.Gerry Martin, chairB.C. Progress Board