VICTORIA B.C. has retained its lead among provinces in health and environmental conditions and improved on its dismal ranking in social condition, according to an advisory panel set up by Premier Gordon Campbell in 2001.
B.C. has risen to sixth place in the B.C. Progress Board’s 2008 social condition ranking, which combines measures for low-income individuals, low birth weight, personal and property crime rate, income assistance rate and long-term unemployment.
“The move from ninth in the country last year to sixth this year is remarkable, particularly given the context of historic performance for this measure,” said Gerry Martin, chair of the Progress Board for its eighth annual report.
Based on 2006 data, B.C. continued to have the worst personal and property crime rate. It improved from seventh to sixth in long-term unemployment.
B.C. placed first in life expectancy at birth, lowest cancer mortality and protected areas as well as environmental quality and overall health outcomes. The latter combines cancer, heart disease, infant mortality and other rates. B.C. has led the country in health outcomes for all eight years of the Progress Board’s activity.
B.C.’s economic growth ranking fell to eighth after being second or third among provinces in recent years. The report’s authors note that while the growth rate dipped, it was above the national average from 2002 to 2006 and the ranking changes this year represent small shifts.
Martin said B.C.’s second-place ranking behind Alberta in both debt and tax rate mean the province is “well-positioned to handle the downturn” in the economy.
The Progress Board also released an advisory report on productivity, where B.C. has rated low in recent years. That report identifies deficiencies in the level of business investment, and recommends that B.C. replace its seven per cent sales tax with a value added tax, “preferably harmonized with the federal Goods and Services Tax.”
Changing to a broader provincial tax would be the most effective way to encourage investment, Martin said. “But we also acknowledge that this is a move that would likely be met with public opposition and concern, and may also have negative, although short-term, effects on other areas of the economy.
B.C. also retained its second-place ranking for lowest greenhouse gas emissions per person, mainly due to the advantage of having a mainly hydroelectric power grid.