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Canadian Index of Wellbeing

University of Waterloo, October 2012

March 27, 201327 March 2013

Culture and tourism / Facilities / Social benefits

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The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) aims to deliver “a measure that provides a broader depth of understanding that, when partnered with [Gross Domestic Product], gives citizens and decision-makers a more comprehensive package of information they need to assess our progress as a society and make decisions based on evidence for a fair and sustainable future”.

The CIW defines wellbeing as “the presence of the highest possible quality of life in its full breadth of expression focused on but not necessarily exclusive to: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated populace, balanced time use, high levels of democratic participation, and access to and participation in leisure and culture”.

The CIW tracks sixty-four indicators related to eight domains, including “leisure and culture”. The report notes that leisure and culture contribute to life satisfaction, quality of life, as well as the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Five of the eight leisure and culture indicators relate to the arts, culture, and heritage, but two key indicators also include recreation activities (hours spent volunteering for culture and recreation organizations and the percentage of household expenditures on culture and recreation).

The index tracks these indicators back to 1994, and the index was set to 100 in that year. The overall Canadian Index of Wellbeing saw a 5.7% increase between 1994 and 2010, while the Gross Domestic Product increased by 28.9% over this timeframe. The leisure and culture portion of the index has decreased fairly consistently since 1998, resulting in an overall decline of 7.8% between 1994 and 2010. Much of this decline (i.e., 3.0% of 7.8%) occurred between 2008 and 2010. The environment domain was the only other domain to see an index decrease (by 10.8%) between 1994 and 2010.

Within the leisure and culture domain, two indicators saw a positive change (increase in physical activity and average number of nights away per vacation). The indicators with a decrease include visits to national parks and national historic sites, average attendance per performance at performing arts events, average number of hours spent volunteering for culture and recreation organizations, expenditures on culture and recreation, time spent on arts and culture activities, and time spent on social leisure activities.

The report’s conclusion regarding leisure and culture is that “Canadians may simply be too caught up in a time crunch to enjoy leisure and culture activities in the company of friends and family”.

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