© Guardian file photo
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, left, chats with Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan at the Prince Edward Island legislature.
A guide for community leaders to protect and conserve features that people value
As the former director of the Institute of Island Studies and a former board member of the Quality of Island Life Co-op, I applaud the proposal of MLA Dr. Peter Bevan Baker that the province adopt a Well Being Measurement Act. This builds on the years of work by the
Quality of Island Life Co-op which brought Community Accounts to P.E.I.. However, Community Accounts is based on Statistics Canada data, which are limited.
I hope the proposed Act will stimulate collaborative efforts among government agencies, municipalities, educational institutions and civil society organizations to document and share information about the core values that islanders share, so that Community Accounts are enriched and made more relevant. This will provide community leaders at all levels with guidance as to how to protect and conserve the features of community life, culture, landscape and environment that people value.
You will notice that I did not list economic well-being. This is not to say that jobs and the economy are not important; economic indicators must be tracked. But research performed by the Institute of Island Studies between 2005 and 2013 clearly revealed that people are attracted to P.E.I., stay on the island or return to live here for many reasons.
These are so important to quality of life that people are willing to accept lower levels of financial wealth than they might expect in other jurisdictions. From a perspective of sustainability this is a very good thing. We must not accept the levels of poverty that exist on P.E.I., but an overall reduction in societal levels of consumption and waste are essential for our future, so we should wear those statistics of limited income and consumption with pride.
When researchers asked islanders to define quality of life, they spoke of community cohesion, personal safety and a culture of mutual assistance. They placed value on personal freedom and privacy while recognizing the checks and balances inherent in living on a small island where other people take an interest in your affairs.
They spoke about the importance of access to the natural beauties of land and sea that nourish us spiritually and contribute to our physical and mental health. And they shared deep concerns for wildlife; clean water, air and soil; and the health of forests, rivers and inshore waters.
Once we have supporting legislation, the next step will be to determine how to cost-effectively measure and report on whether these factors that contribute to personal and collective well-being are being conserved or lost over time.
I am convinced that, in a province of just 140,000 people, blessed as we are with active and competent community service organizations and networks, we can lead the nation in developing such a system. Of course, monitoring quality of life will be useful only if we also develop mechanisms for a timely response to reverse negative trends.
By Irene Novaczek (guest opinion)
Dr. Irene Novaczek, PhD, is a marine ecologist living in Breadalbane